The Effect of the European Settlement on the Aboriginal People

The European settlement had a devastating impact on the entire Aboriginal population, not only those who died from disease and violence. This is despite the fact that some white settlers, including colonial government officials and Christian missionaries, tried to help Indigenous people. These people believed that the Aboriginal people were primitive and uncultured, and that without their help they would die out. Their somewhat misguided attempts to help the Indigenous people are known as paternalism.

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Paternalism means looking after someone and taking care of their interests in the belief that they cannot do it themselves. Convinced that the ‘black races’ had to die out, the Europeans thought they could make that process better for Aboriginal people by placing them on government reserves or in church missions where they could die in peace. This new approach to Aboriginal affairs was known as ‘protection’ policy. Like many other initiatives to help Indigenous people, however, rather than protect their freedoms or their way of life, the protection policy only helped to further destroy them.

On reserves, their traditional way of life was eroded as they became more and more dependent on handouts from the government and the church just to survive. When they first arrived in Australia, the white settlers had attempted to ‘civilise’ the Aboriginal people by forcing them to wear clothes and attend church. The Native Institute was set up in 1814 by Governor Macquarie to educate Aboriginal children in the European way.

As Governor Phillip had tried this with Bennelong and Colebee (two Aboriginal men ) who were taught the language and culture of the white settlers over a period of 30 years before. Governor Macquarie believed that if you educated some of the Indigenous population then they would take back what they had learned to their community. At the onset of the 1930s, white Australians were no longer attempting to provide the Indigenous population with an education that they could take back to their community. Instead, a policy of assimilation was beginning to emerge.

Assimilation was designed to integrate Aboriginal people into white society by forcing them to live in the same way and hold the same beliefs and values as white Australians. This led to the even further diminution (reduction) of traditional Aboriginal culture. The most unfortunate aspect of the assimilation policy was that it led to many children being forcibly taken away from their parents and families and placed in foster care or group homes. These children were soon to become known as the Stolen Generation.

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