This was a glorious time and place.
To think about it would remove me from it by
setting me in opposition as an observer.
I did not want that; let all be one.
Mary Ellen White
|Aboriginal Man (izsmile.com)|
We didn’t get to meet many Australian Aborigines as they usually, and understandably, flee from tourists. Their world, as for many other indigenous people, has been chattered. Still we felt we had to share what Australia thinks makes up an Aborigine to better understand where they stand.
Definition of an Australian Aborigine (Wikipedia):
From 1869 until well into the 1970s, Indigenous children under 12 years of age, with 25% or less Aboriginal blood were considered "white" and were often removed from their families by the Australian Federal and State government agencies and church missions, under acts of their respective parliaments in order that they would have "a reasonable chance of absorption into the white community to which they rightly belong". Grey areas in determination of ethnicity led to people of mixed ancestry being caught in the middle of divisive policies which often led to absurd situations:
In 1935, an Australian of part Indigenous descent left his home on a reserve to visit a nearby hotel where he was ejected for being Aboriginal. He returned home but was refused entry to the reserve because he was not Aboriginal. He attempted to remove his children from the reserve but was told he could not because they were Aboriginal. He then walked to the next town where he was arrested for being an Aboriginal vagrant and sent to the reserve there. During World War II he tried to enlist but was rejected because he was an Aborigine so he moved to another state where he enlisted as a non-Aborigine. After the end of the war he applied for a passport but was rejected as he was an Aborigine, he obtained an exemption under the Aborigines Protection Act but was now told he could no longer visit his relatives as he was not an Aborigine. He was later told he could not join the Returned Servicemen’s Club because he was an Aborigine.In 1983 the High Court of Australia defined an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander as "a person of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander descent who identifies as an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander and is accepted as such by the community in which he or she lives".
The ruling was a three-part definition comprising descent, self-identification and community identification. The first part – descent – was genetic descent and unambiguous, but led to cases where a lack of records to prove ancestry excluded some. Self- and community identification were more problematic as they meant that an Indigenous person separated from her or his community due to a family dispute could no longer identify as Aboriginal.
As a result, there arose court cases throughout the 1990s in which excluded people demanded that their Aboriginality be recognized. In 1995, Justice Drummond ruled "… either genuine self-identification as Aboriginal alone or Aboriginal communal recognition as such by itself may suffice, according to the circumstances." This contributed to an increase of 31% in the number of people identifying as Indigenous Australians in the 1996 census when compared to the 1991 census.
Judge Merkel in 1998 defined Aboriginal descent as technical rather than real – thereby eliminating a genetic requirement. This decision established that anyone can classify him or herself legally as an Aboriginal, provided he or she is accepted as such by his or her community.