Vulnerable to the white hardened frontier attitude, the ‘violent savages’ were abused and exploited. The ‘natives’ desperate in the
struggle for food were starving. It was common for wages to be paid in alcohol, opium or tobacco. The substance abuse was encouraged and heightened
by the strong concoction of liqueur that whites would not dare drink. The sight of these nude, ‘sub-human’ savages drunk in the streets caused
outrage. The urgency to remove the ‘natives’ from the proximity of town was the start of the ‘segregative impulse to the answer to the
Aboriginal problem, which colonial dispossession had created’ (Evans and Walker; 1977: 66). The later 18th Century saw the rapid introduction of
reserves and missions in order to ‘protect Aborigines from violence and harassment and to segregate them from the orderly development of colonial
society’ (McConnochie, Pettman and Hollinsworth; 1993: 82).
In 1883, the NSW Aborigines Protection Board (APB) was established to ‘protect’ Aboriginal people themselves and white society. Those Aborigines
that had survived the frontier violence were rounded up and removed to missions or reserves to be ‘civilised’ and kept under the strict control of
the Aboriginal Protection Board. The massive intervention of the Crown to control the lives of Aboriginal families became the central catastrophe.
The Aborigines Protection Act had ‘enormous authority over Aboriginal adults’ (Brock; 1993: 16). The Unconditional Exemption From The Provisions
Of The Aborigines Act, 1934-1939 is an example of that authority. The Act was another means to completely control and regulate Aboriginal people.
The exemption ‘dog tag’, expected an Aboriginal person to ‘cease’ being an Aborigine, to be of a certain standard of character and
intelligence to assimilate into white society. Section 11a of the Aborigines Act, 1934-1939, once signed by an Aboriginal person and ‘approved’
by the Aboriginal Protection Board, lifted the restrictive control over the said person. The Act stipulated that the said person could no longer
associate with other Aboriginal people. If the ‘exemption form’ was not signed, the Aboriginal people were denied social status and restricted
from circulating freely. European control over Aboriginal adults extended through to their children.
The first official power over Aboriginal children granted to the Board was through the Aboriginal Protection Act (NSW) in 1909. The changes in policy
empowered the Aboriginal Protection Board to ‘assume full control and custody of a child of any Aborigine, if after due enquiry is satisfied that
such course is in the interests of the child’ (Read; 1999: 28). The Amendment Act was complete in all States by 1915 and the removal of children
was the ‘principal weapon on the new Acts’ (Read; 1999: 22).
US legislation corresponds with the Australian ‘segregation’ and ‘removal’ policies. Fraser Island was Australia’s first experimental
reservation for Aboriginal people and the American equivalent: Bosque Redondo, a desolate tract on the Pecos River in eastern New Mexico shares a
tragic legacy. One of the most tragic episodes of exile was the Long Walk or ‘Trail of Tears’ in 1864, ‘8,000 Navajos were forced to walk more
than 300 miles from northeastern Arizona and northwestern New Mexico to Bosque Redondo’
(www.smithsonianmag.si.edu...). One in every four Navajos died from hunger, cold or disease. Those who survived the
‘Long Walk’ joined the Mescalero Apache in forced confinement as Bosque Redondo became a virtual prison camp, ‘the brackish Pecos water caused
severe intestinal problems, and diseases were rampant. Armyworm destroyed the corn crop, and the wood supply was soon depleted’
(www.smithsonianmag.si.edu...). Despite the Indian people ‘planting crops, digging irrigation, building housing,
nothing seemed to work. Drought, cutworms, hail and alkaline Pecos River created severe living conditions for the nearly 9,000 captives’
(nativenet.uthscsa.edu...). The Navajos endured the wretched camp for four years when in 1868, ‘the army finally
admitted the failure of the Bosque Redondo’ (nativenet.uthscsa.edu...) and the Government relented and returned them
to their homelands.
In May 1864, the Queensland Parliament raised the ‘utopian and visionary proposal for an Aboriginal reserve’ (Evans and Walker; 1977: 68). The
notion that Fraser Island ‘could become a model for other such ‘Christian’ experiments in the development of more penal settlements for the
Aborigines’ (Evans and Walker; 1977: 67). Under the auspices and control of the Church of England, Aboriginal people would be ‘converted from
paganism to Christianity, and from barbarism to civilisation’ (Evans & Walker; 1977: 67). In 1897, displaced Aboriginal people from the Maryborough
region were relocated to Fraser Island. In 1901, four years later, the mission experienced increasing financial difficulties, ‘the station was
drifting into chaos …all the result of incompetent people being in charge’ (Evans and Walker; 1977: 89). In June 1903, Captain Herbert Kent,
assumed control and reported that ‘the Church was dilapidated, the fishing boats were holed and the nets ruined, none of the huts were left standing
and the ‘natives’ were camping in all weathers under blankets…the children were half starved and nearly naked’ (Evans and Walker; 1977: 89).
The administrative failings of the Church and the Aboriginal Protection Board resulted in deaths of hundreds of Aboriginal people who died enduring
appalling conditions, ‘Captain Kent penned the blunt and tragic memo to the Home Secretary: “Isn’t this one of the blackest pages in the history
of the British Empire?”’ (Evans and Walker; 1977: 90).
The Governments administrative failings whether carried out in Australia by the various Christian denominations or in America by the Army resulted in
the inhumane treatment of both Aboriginal and Indian peoples’. The level of control over Aboriginal and Indian peoples’ lives became a
legislative obsession. The experiences of reservation life for both Aboriginal and Indian peoples’ bears witness to this. In America, ‘the first
decades of reservation life were harsh, marked by murders of Indians, systematic persecution of Indian leaders, withholding rations and other
punishments designed to break the spirit of the people and force them to conform’ (Josephy; 1971: 349). Likewise in Australia, Missionaries
controlled every aspect of the community’s life and ‘punishment for infringing the ‘bylaws’ were a caning or a night in the lock up,
withholding rations. Other punishments included locking people in chains’ (Craig; 1980: 20). Far from being given an opportunity to learn to
manage their own affairs, they were treated as prisoners or children; ‘the smallest detail was directed and handled for them by the Agent’
(Josephy; 1971: 349). On the reservations, religious practices were banned, every effort was made to ‘end tribal cultures and way of life,
traditional means of livelihood disappeared but no suitable economy was introduced’ (Josephy; 1971: 350) producing serious disadvantage and
financial problems for Indian and Aboriginal people long term.
In conclusion, the comparisons in Australian and American Government policy and practice of administering Aboriginal and Indian peoples’ affairs are
numerous. Both Nations embraced ethnocentric ideology in order to dispossess Indigenous peoples of their land, designing specific legislation to deal
with their respective ‘Aboriginal and Indian Problems’. Aboriginal and Indian people’s resistance to their loss of tribal land was fierce, war
inevitably became the only alternative. The US Government’s negotiation of treaties only served to prolong the agony, whilst the Australian
Government avoided the ‘negotiation façade’ due to the denial of Aboriginal political status. Both ‘removal’ and ‘assimilation’ policies
were designed to offer protection, access to food, education and training of white ways, however, as the government policy obsessed with Aboriginal
and Indian control, reservations became an inescapable regime. Ultimately, government policies and practice undermined Aboriginal and Indian people in
the political sphere, a powerful tool to dispossess Aboriginal and Indian people of their land.
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[edit on 27-4-2007 by NJE777]