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Aborigines And Their Place In Politics

2233 words - 9 pages

For much of their history, Australia’s major parties did not perceive a need to have ‘Aboriginal affairs’ policies, but this altered in the 1960s and 1970s as the Aboriginal interest came to occupy a more prominent position. The policies of recent major governments, those being the Australian Labor Party (ALP) and the Coalition, consisting of the Liberal Party and National Party, have changed drastically since the Federation of Australia. The approaches throughout history of these major parties will be discussed briefly in order to gain an understanding of the foundation of each party’s beliefs and platforms in regards to Aborigines. The main political issues facing Aborigines in society ...view middle of the document...

This called for the establishment of a full Aboriginal affairs department. Whitlam guaranteed that a Labor government would not falter to override any State laws ‘which discriminated against Aborigines, or which supervised Aborigines, or which reduced the opportunities for Aborigines to conduct themselves as they wished’. Shifting aside ‘assimilation’ and ‘integration’, Labor adopted ‘self-determination’, a policy which spoke of Aborigines ultimately being able to ‘decide the pace and nature of their future development’, where they would ‘take a real and effective responsibility for their own affairs’. After becoming Prime Minister, Whitlam took it further with his talk of restoring to Aborigines ‘their lost power of self-determination in economic, social and political affairs’. Within a year of its election, the Whitlam government was discovering that its position among Aborigines was sliding outrageously. There was also indications that advancement on land rights was frustratingly slow. Despite Aboriginal complaints, there is no doubt that the Whitlam government did a lot for the Aboriginal people. Apart from the creation of the Department of Aboriginal Affairs (DAA) and the passage of anti-discrimination legislation, a lot of money was spent, much of it usefully. During the Fraser years, Labor was proud of the work of the Whitlam government, which, it claimed, had ‘developed achievements and advances, which remain unparalleled in the history of our politics since the British occupation’. The Liberal Party was slower than the ALP in devising policies in these areas. However, the party did support the 1967 amendment, and soon after, the Coalition moved to establish the Office of Aboriginal Affairs, an advisory body that was given considerable funds to determine Aboriginal needs so that the Commonwealth could undertake action. The Liberal’s were prepared to cast aside assimilationist ideas in their identification of Aborigines’ fundamental right to maintain their racial identity and traditional lifestyle or, if preferred, to adopt partially or entirely a European lifestyle. The Liberal Party’s Aboriginal Affairs policy emerged as ‘self-management’, a policy that was held to distinguish Liberal policy from that of Labor, stressing as it did that Aborigines should not only be responsible for their future development, but also accountable for the success or failure of such development. National Party politicians have been far less prepared than the Liberals to accept that Aborigines require special assistance to meet their needs. The primary political issues faced by Aborigines today include Aboriginal death in custody, reconciliation, land rights including native title and the Mabo decision, and the Stolen Generation. There are other issues, however these appear to be the major contemporary issues by way of the media focus they have gained and policies and legislation relating to them. In regards to reconciliation, the Liberal Party is committed...

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