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Australian Identity and Aboriginality Essay

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Updated: Mar 6th, 2022

Historically, non-indigenous people have been perceived as a core of society in Australia. Aboriginal population is always seen as the alternative culture which is more likely to engage in orthodox forms of non-action. The experience of participation in any of social activities is crucial in developing a radical critique and practice (Bonney and Wilson, 2001). For non-indigenous people, political activity is important in that it teaches citizens the limits of the system and gives them a sense of both the cultural necessity and possibility of replacing the existing social order with new forms and structures. In Australia, there is a certain logic of contestation that means actions develop a momentum and radicalize their citizens in a way rarely foreseen at the beginning.

Traditionally, Aboriginal people are seen as weak and uneducated who need support and social protection. In Australian society, choices are manifestations of a developmental force arising from internal drives and reflections, on one side, and the possibilities that society presents, on the other. While no analysis cannot account for every variation, non-indigenous population can see the underlying pattern of issues on the individual side. On the social side, critics can identify patterns of response that lead, in often predictable directions, toward certain kinds of results. Aboriginal culture never can be neutral (Blainey, 2001). It is an active component of national identity. No one acquires an identity in a social vacuum, but what national politics as an aspect of culture can contribute is not just acceptance but an active approach to policies that will make possible for every citizen the achievement of competencies, the sustenance of understanding, and a respect for humane ways of integrating oneself into the unique culture. On the one hand, the modern population in Australia evinces the humanist desire to see to the national liberation of all people by removing all forms of stigmatization and accepting each diverse element of community on its own terms (Karasek and Theorell, 2007). On the other hand is the unclear dream of society that will lead to peaceful coexistence and a mutual regard for the economic security of different cultural groups and nationalities of the community. The latter remains an unachievable dream as long as the Australian society has no way of working out the connections between identity and community. If this view of national identity formation as the cornerstone of a new conception of Aboriginal values is taken as significant, then what is needed is a technique for implementing this vision (Baldock and Lally, 2020).

History positions Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people as marginal groups in society rejected and opposed by mainstream culture and the community in general. Individual identities differ in content, but the evidence we have cited strongly suggests that the psychological imperative of identity formation is universal. If it can be inferred that quest for national identity achievement is central to all people, then there is a powerful argument for at least a minimal form of equality as a political value. Without a common minimum of security and opportunity, and without basic cultural tolerance of Aboriginal and Torres Straitt Islander people, humanness and humanity collectively are endangered (Karasek and Theorell. 2000). While smallest levels of tolerance and security are important, the distinctions that nationalities establish recognizing competence, generating integrity, and supporting sympathy are also critical to the developmental process. This anxiety between the universal and the particular in identity formation keeps the key to understanding the relationships between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, and the non-indigenous people. National identity and origin has an impact on identity needs and community politics. Having opened the issue of deep-seated variances, critics explore the political implications of differentiation (Elshtain and Cloyd. 2004). Though his view is based on a predetermined concept of identity, there is an intuitive appeal in this concept. For difference implies discrimination, and therein lies the link to the uses of national power in Australia. A completion of the analysis, requires that citizens account for the fact that identities are as likely to be complementary as they are discriminatory. The ability of humans to function in webs of myriad identifications is at least as remarkable as penchant for the subjugation of distinctive personalities (Beilharz, 2003; Encel, 2001; Broom and Jones, 2005).

The other problem is that the law enforces stereotyped and takes-for-granted views about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Such ‘liberated areas’ also represent first steps towards the actual restructuring of society, and, as they do genuine expressions of popular action they are less vulnerable to reaction than change imposed by governmental fiat. Most important, through both the direct involvement people offer and the example they provide, they act to break down the existing hegemony of liberal capitalist values and practices (Jones, 2000). The application of Terra Nullius and Mandatory Sentencing shows that the state treats and perceives Aboriginal people as criminals and marginal groups creating special rules and norms for these groups of people. Also, the portrayal of Aboriginals as Stolen Generations add emotional tension and portrays them as undesired social groups. In a sense new communal forms of working and living, particularly when they are organized around a commitment to alternative values, can be seen as rehearsals for a new society. Unfortunately they can also reproduce the worst features of the old; the phenomenon of small group totalitarianism and conformity is not merely a liberal myth (Blainey, 2000; Giddens, 2001).

The negative images of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people influence stereotypes and negative feelings about these people. The essence of national development lies in the shared meanings that individuals create or acquire. Absurdly, individuation is meaningless without the social credit of distinctiveness. That is why so much of behavior is a form of “acting.” Just as actors seek an audience by creating a role, so do all of us have an “act” that contains characteristic mannerisms, traits, styles, and modes of activities (Graetz and McAllister, 1994). The question of indigenous population raises is about how the distribution of economic rewards fits with the achievement of competence, the enhancement of integrity, and the sustenance of sympathy. Economic “means” are just that–means to these developmental ends. To resolve, through class warfare, differences in the distribution of these financial means leads into the repressive political environment that traditional liberals, as well as conservatives, would criticize (Gleeson, 2000). The market rewards capital, whether acquired by labor, fraud, chance, legacy, or the proceeds of a monopolistic position in the marketplace. All but the first of these has no standing in developmental theory, with the exception of those limited forms of inheritance that contribute to the maintenance of the family. The forces of capital reinforced by political power can violate national and legal norms just as surely as democratic regimes intent on erasing authentic differences among people (Blainey, 2001; Encel, 2001).

In sum, historically Aboriginal populations were seen as undesired and subordinated people who needed social and political support. In this case, national identity as the equivalent of class is to engage in economic and sociological relations of a kind that leaves only conflict as a solution to political problems. While this may be warranted in given historical situations, recent laws and regulations have shown that regimes that rule are just as likely to be repressive. Similarly, Aboriginal identity is constructed and based on historical stereotypes supported and promoted by the state today.

Bibliography

  1. Baldock, C., and J. Lally. 2002. Sociology in Australia and New Zealand. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press.
  2. Beilharz, P. 2003. Transforming Labor: Labor Tradition and the Labor Decade in Australia. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  3. Blainey, G. 2000. A Shorter History of Australia. Sydney: Vintage Books.
  4. Blainey, G. 2001. This Land is All Horizons: Australia’s Fears and Visions. Sydney: ABC Books.
  5. Bonney, B., and H. Wilson. 2001. Australia’s Commercial Media. Melbourne: Macmillan.
  6. Broom, L., and F.L. Jones. 2006. Opportunity and Attainment in Australia. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.
  7. Elshtain, J., and J. Cloyd. 2004. Politics and the Human Body. Nashville: Vanderbilt University Press.
  8. Encel, S. 2001. A Changing Australia. Sydney: ABC Books.
  9. Giddens, A. 2001. The Consequences of Modernity. London: Polity Press.
  10. Gleeson, M. 2000. The Rule of Law and the Constitution. Sydney: ABC Books.
  11. Graetz, Brian, and Ian McAllister. 1994. Dimensions of Australian Society. 2nd edn. Melbourne: Macmillan.
  12. Jones, M. 2000. The Australian Welfare State: Origins, Control and Choices. Sydney: Allen & Unwin.
  13. Karasek, R., and T. Theorell. 2000. Healthy Work: Stress, Productivity and the Reconstruction of Working Life. New York: Basic Books.
  14. Karasek, R., and T. Theorell. 2007. Healthy Work: Stress, Productivity and the Reconstruction of Working Life. New York: Basic Books.
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IvyPanda. "Australian Identity and Aboriginality." March 6, 2022. https://ivypanda.com/essays/australian-identity-and-aboriginality/.

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IvyPanda. 2022. "Australian Identity and Aboriginality." March 6, 2022. https://ivypanda.com/essays/australian-identity-and-aboriginality/.

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IvyPanda. (2022) 'Australian Identity and Aboriginality'. 6 March.

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