Aborigines and the
During the first half of the twentieth century many southern Aborigines, like their northern counterparts on missions and cattle stations, experienced a lack of autonomy. However, control of Aborigines by Europeans in the southern states was different from in the north. It was achieved less through institutionalisation and more through a caste barrier of colour prejudice and discrimination, which separated dark-skinned Australians from light-skinned Australians and made Aborigines outcasts in their own land.
This chapter will analyse the ways in which the caste barrier shaped the lives of Aboriginal people and how they responded to it. The focus for convenience will be on New South Wales and Victoria in the period from about 1920 until the 1960s during which time little change took place. Much of what is said here also applies to Aboriginal fringe communities throughout Australia. In 1930, approximately 8000 Aborigines lived in New South Wales and 1000 dwelled in Victoria. This was only about a tenth of the population of these areas in 1788. Fortunately the 1920s witnessed the end of the steady decline in the Aboriginal population which had begun with the European invasion. More than half of the Aborigines at this time were people of mixed descent.
Aborigines in the south lived mostly in and around country towns. In New South Wales where the government oscillated between an absorptionist and segregationist policy, about half the Aborigines dwelled on reserves of which there were 22 in 1936 and 49 by 1960. During the 1930s the police had pushed a significant number of Aborigines back on to the reserves to save dole payments to them during the Depression. For instance, by 1941, 4908 Aborigines were on reserves and 5708 lived elsewhere. 1 Aborigines who chose to remain on New South Wales reserves because they considered them to be their home, or because they had nowhere else to go, were exposed to rigid controls under the Aborigines Protection Act of 1909 and its later amendments. In return for food, shelter and some education, the Aborigines were subject to the discipline of reserve managers or the local police who