Aboriginal Affairs Essay

Submitted By itsmarawhat
Words: 859
Pages: 4

Political Gains
Citizenship - Citizenship means being a member of a political community, like a country, with all the rights to participate politically in that community. The Indigenous population of Australia had never been recognised as citizens of Australia - they were outside the 'political community' and therefore had no say in how the community was run. Some Aboriginal people had been able to become Australian citizens since the end of the Second World War, but it meant getting an 'exemption certificate' that said they were no longer Aboriginal. This was not acceptable to the majority of Aboriginal people and very few of them ever signed up to the exemption scheme. However by 1960 various pieces of legislation in all the States that stopped Aboriginal people being citizens were abolished, and in 1961 the Minister for Territories, Paul Hasluck, announced in Parliament that Aboriginal citizenship had been achieved.
Voting Rights - Like Citizenship, voting rights had been available to some Aboriginal people in some States before the 1960s, but many Aboriginal people were unaware of those rights and did not exercise them. In 1962 the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918 (Cth) was amended so that all Indigenous people could vote in Commonwealth elections. In the next three years legislation was also passed in the States that did not already provide equal voting rights for Aboriginal people. Voting was not immediately made compulsory for Aboriginal people, but after they voted once, they then came under the same voting laws as all other Australians.
The 1967 Referendum - Many people believe that citizenship and voting rights were given to Aboriginal people by the 1967 Referendum, but that is not true. The referendum changed the constitution so that the Indigenous people could be counted in the census. The constitutional change also allowed the Commonwealth government to make laws for Indigenous peoples. The 1967 referendum was a big moment in Indigenous Australia's history because 90 per cent of the 'white' population voted in favour of legislation that was for Aboriginal people. This showed there had been a positive shift in the white attitude towards the Indigenous population.
Economic Gains
Recognition of equal pay - With the backing of the trade unions and by using strike action,Indigenous workers were granted equal pay as their white counterparts in 1965. However there was a delay in implementing the new policy and it did not really come into effect until 1968. By that stage more strike action had taken place. The Wave Hill strike of 1966 is an example of this.
Recognition of land rights - Although the Yirrkala people had lost their case against the company that was mining on their land, the High Court Judge did recognise that they had a traditional connection with the land that went back many thousands of years. The judge also said, however, that their ownership of the land had ended when English law was established in 1788 and the land was declared 'Terra Nullius'. The fact that the judgement recognised the Yirrkala prior ownership of the land meant that future cases could be fought on this basis.
They became eligible for government benefits - Like with many of the rights that became available to Aboriginal people, being eligible for government benefits like pensions or child benefits changed from State to State and over the years. Before 1959 some Aboriginal people could claim government money, but only if they were 'assimilated' and living in a