Conflict, Politics and Crime: Aboriginal Communities and the Police

By Chris Cunneen | Go to book overview

4
From over-policing to
zero tolerance

The 1960s saw the repeal of significant sections of discriminatory state legislation as part of the general move towards assimilation and integration. Citizenship rights implied equality of treatment, yet it brought with it ongoing mechanisms of police surveillance derived from more than half a century of protection legislation. In addition the movement of Indigenous people into urban areas brought an intensified focal point to Aboriginal-police relations: the policing of public behaviour through ‘street offences’ legislation.

During the 1960s laws which enabled Aboriginal men in Western Australia and South Australia to be whipped for breaches of the criminal law or for false statements were repealed. In the Northern Territory the Criminal Code was amended in 1968 so that Indigenous people convicted of murder could receive a ‘just and proper’ penalty instead of the death sentence. In South Australia legislation which required a register of Aborigines to be kept and which enabled forced medical procedures in the case of contagious diseases was dismantled. Yet legislation also remained which continued to discriminate against Indigenous people. In Western Australia, under the Native Welfare Act 1963, the managers of Aboriginal reserves retained wide discretionary powers in their control over Aboriginal people. An offence against the Act carried a fine of up to £50 or six months’ imprisonment. As noted in Chapter 3, the Queensland Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders Affairs Act 1965 continued, with a highly regulatory regime on the reserves including power over employment, the care of children and the maintenance of discipline and good order. New legislation was enacted in Queensland in 1971, The Aborigines Act 1971 and The Torres Strait Islanders Act 1971, but these laws continued to exercise extensive control over Aboriginal and Torres Strait

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