Nyoongar People of Australia: Perspectives on Racism and Multiculturalism

Nyoongar People of Australia: Perspectives on Racism and Multiculturalism

Nyoongar People of Australia: Perspectives on Racism and Multiculturalism

Nyoongar People of Australia: Perspectives on Racism and Multiculturalism

Synopsis

This text is about the indigenous Nyoongar people of the south-west of Western Australia and their perspectives on racism, which has had a devastating effect on their lives and culture since colonisation; and the multicultural policies that are effective in Australia. The author, and those Nyoongars interviewed, give valuable insight into Aboriginal lives. Their comments reveal how Nyoongar people survived the colonialism, cultural genocide, the horrendous state government policies under which they were forced to exist, the Stolen Generations of children and the loss of their land, identity, culture, and purpose in their lives. Presently, they are fighting for equality and for recognition as being part of the oldest living culture in the world, that of the Australian Aborigines.

Excerpt

There is still, and will be for years to come, the colonial
mentality regarding Aborigines. It will be a slow process
before the ideologies of a supposedly superior race alter to
more enlightened and humane concepts. Not that I will bear
witness to this change to full acceptance of Aboriginal people
into this dominant Australian society. I supppose this new
idea of multiculturalism may enhance the Aboriginal cause,
but for too long Aborigines have been ignored as non-citizens
in the country of their birth and heritage (4).

(Thomas Corbett, 1910–1992)

The above passage typifies the hopes that many older Aboriginal people had, and still have, about Nyoongar people and other Aborigines being accepted into the broader Australian society in terms of equality and equal opportunity. These comments were made by my father, the late Mr Thomas Corbett, who, in his autobiography, No Options No Choice!: the Moore River Experience (1994), tells of his life as one of the Stolen Children and how he survived living under The Aborigines Act of 1905 and the succeeding Native Welfare policies relating to Aborigines in Western Australia. Although not a Nyoongar, my father had lived amongst the Nyoongars for 71 years, beginning his association with them in 1920, while living at the Moore River Native Setdement and other areas in Nyoongar country. He has experienced the horrendous policies that were formulated to control the indigenous people of this state. the Nyoongar people lost control of their lives and their lifestyle and were forced to account to the colonial and, later, the state government for their very existence. Their every movement was monitored and recorded. My father lived through these hard times. He witnessed many changes over the years, changes that were both harsh and limiting for the Nyoongar and other indigenous people in Western Australia. He was happy when the Aboriginal people were made citizens of their country because, finally, with the advent of the 1967 Referendum and its results, he voted for the first time, not knowing that, since 1962, Aboriginal people could have voted if they chose. My father lived to see the multicultural policies in play. He had great hopes for the future, which he thought the Aboriginal people could share with equity and a sense of belonging as citizens of Australia. This dissertation is titled “Nyoon-

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