Table of Contents
Perpetual existence of Aboriginal cultural identity does not mean survival of all cultural aspects of the Aboriginal culture. The government has changed from its policy of trying to change aborigines from their traditional culture to a completely new way of life. Instead, the government has adopted policies, which seem to mimic the Aboriginal culture in response to Aboriginal issues. Moreover, the government intends to empower aborigines economically, socially, and politically while maintaining their traditional cultural heritage thus abandoning radical measures of persuasion effectively.
Land has been an important aspect of the Aboriginal culture, and thus a critical aspect of empowerment for the Aboriginal people. A deadlock has emerged where land is seen to belong to the native inhabitants of Australia who in this case are aborigines, and not the Europeans settlers who are the majority. However, territories of land that are indigenous to aborigines remain vaguely demarcated. There is the argument that the immigrants filled the unoccupied land on the subcontinent, adapted to it, and developed it into a metropolitan territory. In addition, most of the land proved uninhabitable to the initial settler immigrants, consequently, encouraging concentrated urban settlement around Australia. Economic tension has led to disunity in the territories of Australia resulting in clamor for autonomy by some member states of the federal territory. Due to this political tension, governments of the Australian state are considering the weight of the Aboriginal votes as an asset. Aborigines have enough population to constitute a state but there is no demarcated land to accommodate an autonomous Aboriginal territory. The Aboriginal struggle for recognition is thus enigmatic and is torn between cultural and political backgrounds.
The ownership of land by aborigines was tied to spiritual relevance of the said land to the Aboriginal society. Any group wishing to have official recognition of ownership of land had to prove before a land commissioner that it had spiritual interest it wished to protect in the land. In addition, the group had to be an indigenous inhabitant of the land in question. However, law to time before the year 1997 limited such a claim to ownership of land. Anthropologists have found that the definition of groups eligible for land allocation was often vague, and they are of the opinion that the social-political organization of the Aboriginal society needed more investigation. In this regard, some investigative bodies were setup to investigate authenticity of claim by some Aboriginal societies of native entitlement to indigenous land. These tribunals were to investigate among other things, whether the native title to land survived the colonial era. The tribunal would then establish legal ownership of the land. Consequently, the native title to land had some cultural aspect and not merely the fact of having survived the colonial era.
The decision to give titles and some financial support to the Aboriginal society was met with criticism by some champions of equality. The activists wanted fair treatment of people, based on their productivity and not the circumstances of the particular people. Despite these barriers, the government has succeeded in initializing a process of integrating aborigines into the mainstream society while preserving their traditional cultural heritage. Aboriginality has been molded to accommodate modern ideas of production and cultural heritage.
Struggles in Town Space
Presence of Aboriginal society in towns elicits some contrast with other people in the towns. Occupation of urban space is a partial affair affected by different opinions of Aboriginal society of what an urban centre should constitute. Indifferent social behavior by the aborigines in urban centers conflicts with the perception of the white people concerning the use of urban space. Overindulging in alcoholic tendencies is viewed as abuse of the right of Aborigines to consume liquor. The effect of overindulging in alcoholic behavior by the Aboriginal societies affects everyone in the urban places including the white people. Some of the policies instituted to restrain individual conduct conflict with the concept of mimicking the Aboriginal culture in order to accommodate Aborigines in the mainstream society. Katherine is an example of an urban centre that exudes this kind of phenomena. A law had been formulated in the early twentieth century with the intention of restricting Aborigines from occupying or using some areas, and from moving to and from some places. This was in response to Aboriginal behavior of selective interaction, camping in some inconvenient places in urban centers and idling. Consequently, the freedom of Aborigines was impaired, and the move to favor the white population’s affairs was camouflaged as a policy to protect the Aborigines. The law and the resulting fines when rules were flouted, seemed oppressive and in favor of one race.
The Aborigines and half-caste people did not accept the inferiority tag and assumed themselves to be equal to the white race. The Aborigines attested to the fact that they did not submit to the racial order that was suggested by the authorities. The racialist laws have been lifted since, but the Australian society still maintains the segregationist mentality. Individuals are still identified either as of Aboriginal descent or of non-Aboriginal descent. Aborigines still maintain their nature of selective association and restrict themselves to certain areas in urban places. Furthermore, the majority of civilians in towns are of Aboriginal descent. Aborigines prefer to socialize in places away from central areas in urban centers. However, the self-restriction has eased and consumption of alcohol and drunkenness has been decriminalized in Northern Territory of Australia.
Do Places Appear? Further Struggle
Due to the relevance of presence of sacred spiritual interest on land, some of the sacred places have been created by people who want an unfair advantage according to some critics of pro-Aboriginal policies. Aborigines are seen to be taking an opportunistic stance regarding uncertain history to claim sanctity of land with intention of unfair acquisition. This has complicated social, political and cultural heritage issues in Australia. The policy of mimicking the Aboriginal culture in order to get the aborigines to integrate fully with the mainstream society is an effective way of reform. In addition, this kind of approach minimizes conflict with Aboriginal culture. Moreover, the resistance of the Aboriginal people to the effort to integrate them with mainstream society is minimized by this approach.
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By trying to contain the Aboriginal culture, the previous successive governments and colonial authorities have created a conflict between the Aboriginal people and other settler communities in Australia. Current administration has tried to approach the assimilation issue with an adaptive criterion where the Aboriginal culture is accepted and integrated with other additive features of modern culture. In this approach, the Aboriginal people should not only be seen as a political asset for the government, but should be empowered to become economically and socially productive. Anthropologist suggest that if the aborigines are empowered to be contributors to the Australian state economically and socially as much as much they are regarded as political assets, they might provide a quicker and amicable solution. In addition, segregationist measures in trying to align Aboriginal society to mainstream western culture has proved to be counterproductive creating a wider gap between the aborigines and the white people in Australia. The Aboriginal society can be treated fairly if the aborigines are allowed to continue their preservation of the traditional Aboriginal identity while still accommodating modern ideals of production. It is only through these adaptive measures that the administration and the people of Australia can establish a peaceful and fair coexistence.