Academic journal article Hecate

'I Hate Working for White People'

Academic journal article Hecate

'I Hate Working for White People'

Article excerpt

`I Hate Working For White People'

I have undertaken this research as it allows me to trace the employment experiences and life histories of members of my family, thereby gaining a greater understanding of policies and practices that determined not only their employment but their whole existence. Writing this paper was an inner necessity in recognition that I am both a spectator and a participant in the theatre of life histories of Aboriginal women in Western Australia.

To investigate policies, framed within the White Australia Policy 1901, and their impact on Aboriginals,(1) the State Government Department of Aboriginal Affairs Planning Authority permitted me to read the records of the Department of Aborigines and Fisheries (1909-1920), Aborigines Department (1926-1936) and the Department of Native Affairs (1936-1955), on the understanding that I would not disclose any personal data contained in the files. In general, researchers cannot disclose personal information obtained from departmental files since these have been cross-referenced with other people's personal files. The institutional structure of Aboriginal Administration in Western Australia is outlined in Appendix A.

However, the major source of information has been the documentation of the lives of my mother's parents, a dossier of approximately 700 pages, and of my maternal grandmother's mother, by the various Departments controlling Aboriginal Affairs, held by the Department of Community Services. To obtain a copy of these files one must demonstrate consanguineal links if the person is deceased or obtain written permission from the living relative concerned. Another similar source is my friend's mother's file, which Dawn obtained from the Department of Community Services with her mother's written permission. The information recorded by white public servants reveals tight control over all aspects of Aboriginals' lives. The records are essentially ethnocentric in what they record and how they interpret events. Today, although we feel extremely angry about the fact that our lives are printed on paper in such a socially removed and impersonal fashion, and about the many lies contained within them, the existence of these files means that we can retell history from an Aboriginal perspective and are able to quote personal details from them when we have obtained permission from the subjects of records.

Between 1920 and 1950, a number of Aboriginal women from the Moore River Native Settlement in Western Australia were employed as domestic servants. This period has been chosen since it covers the administration of Auber Octavius Neville, as the Chief Protector of Aborigines. The life (hi)stories help us to gain an understanding of the suffering of Aboriginal women and the callousness and racism within Anglo-Australian society. Their written words and those of the white administrators reveal the struggle, the endurance, the de-humanisation and exploitation of Aboriginal women in Western Australia.(2)

The general Marxist feminist model as discussed by Lim(3) posits that women are sources of triple exploitation in that like all wage labourers, women receive in wages less than the full value of what they produce, the remainder accruing to capitalists as profit. Second, she argues that Third World workers are subjected to imperialist exploitation since there is a differential in wages paid to workers in developed and developing countries for the same work output."(4) Aboriginal exploitation is comparable to the exploitation of workers in third world countries. Although there appears to be a parallel between the wages of white domestics in Western Australia in 1930, which were "fixed at a minimum wage of ten shillings per week"(5) by the Unemployed Girls' Relief Committee, one must bear in mind that white domestics unlike Aboriginal domestics were in charge of their own earnings, had freedom of movement and some degree of choice about their employer and therefore had substantially more control over their destiny. …

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