Aboriginal Identity in Post-Colonial Australia
The colonisation' of Australia by Europeans has caused a lot of problem for the local Aborigines. It drastically reduced their population, damaged ancient family ties, and removed thousands of Aboriginal people from the land they had lived on for centuries. In many cases, the loss of land can mean more than just physical displacement. Because land is so much connected to history and spirituality, the loss of it can lead to a loss of identity. This paper will examine the works of Tim Rowse and Jeremy Beckett as well as other symbols of identity that are available to modern Aborigines in post colonial Australia.
"In pre-colonial Aboriginal culture, people did not have identity as
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Another issue of identity is that of being recognised by the government as being an Aboriginal person. Rowse (2002) points out that until 1971, the race question on the census was dictated by biological or genealogical factors. However this was discarded and race' was defined entirely by self-identification. People now had the choice "to be recorded as Aboriginal, Torres Strait Islander, European or other'." (Rowse 2002:167) In 1980 it was noticed that a trend had occurred whereby the Aboriginal population grew. Because it was no longer biologically determined, children of Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal couple could be classed as either Aboriginal or non-Aboriginal. Moreover, those same children could later shift identity and become something different again. Over the next years, the demography of Indigenous Australians fluctuated. It became apparent that the idea of an Indigenous population' was a "cultural phenomenon" rather than a statistic (Rowse 2002). This can be seen as being a step forward for a government that for the most part of the 20th century attempted to deal with Aborigines as a different race rather than a different culture. The acceptance of Aboriginality as a social choice rather than a biological feature can be seen as an attempt to promote Aboriginal identity. This can, in part, help Aboriginal people seeking identity. It is acknowledgement without prejudice and a way to be recognised in the country as an equal and as a