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Indigenous Australians and Equitable Outcomes Essay

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Updated: Sep 12th, 2021


Since the period of colonization, Australian indigenous population was deprived their rights and freedoms, their land and autonomy. Access to resources for industrialization and development has been an important motivation for intensification and geographical expansion of industrial economies. This brought industrial society into contact and conflict with tribal and indigenous peoples in Australia. The most important is that historic exclusion from properly remunerated employment affected Indigenous population and their current social and economic position in Australia.


The role and input of indigenous Australians to the development of the contemporary economy can be explained by rich natural resources and patents of agriculture typical for indigenous population. Expanding industrial society rapidly appropriated the lands, resources and even lives of tribal peoples. Cheap labor and farming resources were the main contribution of indigenous Australians to development of the Australian economy. Needs-based, rural and community development planning has proved difficult to implement at either national or regional scales. Not only was it difficult to get bureaucrats and politicians to commit themselves to this approach but also that the practitioners who were charged with facilitating it themselves influence the outcomes through both overt and hidden agendas (Neill 2002). For example, the emphasis appears to have changed in favor of greater centralization of development at the core, and the perception that national rather than regional advantage should receive principal attention. Internal pressures from urban-based elite groups and external stresses resulting from the need for economic viability in a global sense have been too strong. Illegal miners and agricultural settlers executed villagers.

Indigenous Education Objectives

Incorporating indigenous technical knowledge (e.g. local practices for controlling insect pests in rice production, or traditional management arrangements for operating irrigation canals) into development interventions is also emerging as an accepted approach that tries to blend the best of local practices with new technologies from outside” (p. 917).

Retail stores obtain a special position in aboriginal economy. In Australia stores have been focal points of contact between the aboriginal peoples and the non-aboriginal incomers—traders, government officials, missionaries and others. They have been the means of introducing people to goods and chattels such as rations of tea and sugar, blankets, rifles and modern clothing and as such have been a major instrument of assimilation. As trading posts they have introduced people to the concept of exchanging labor and goods for cash and, they have benefited non-aboriginal people by allowing the collection of valuable items for which external markets were known to exist, notably furs and pelts. In this sense they unveil exploitation of aboriginal society by representatives of the non-aboriginal incoming groups (Taylor, 2004). In other ways they have helped aboriginal people, providing them with a wealth of goods which have made their lives easier and have increased their living standards. Stores have also, more recently, been perceived in commercial terms as a way forward, a channel through which aboriginal people could begin to make the progress which conventional attitudes towards development expected of them (Taylor, 2004).

Since the 1970s Aboriginal community stores have been given an additional role—that of being financially successful enterprises. This role is an outcome of the adoption of self-determination policies—that Aborigines should be controlling their own services and enterprises, and should be striving for greater economic independence from government and other authorities (Taylor, 2004). Economic enterprises were promoted as a prime channel for achieving these goals. In most remote communities, the store was the only enterprise already in existence. These were quickly transferred from existing government or mission control to Aboriginal ownership as a direct demonstration of this new development policy.

Historic exclusion from properly remunerated employment has a profound impact on current status and social position of Australian indigenous population. For instance, till 1953, indigenous Australians had no status as citizens of the nation, and no recognition as its prior owners. When selecting a test site, no one considered asking for permission from the Yankatjara or Pitjantjatjara because, to all intents and purposes, Australia was treated as free land. These remote desert lands were the emptiest of lands in the continent that the colonizers and their descendants asserted no one owned. The case of minerals, timber, wildlife, the late twentieth century is a period of intense primitive accumulation in indigenous domains (Taylor 2004). In previous generations, the destruction of indigenous and tribal cultures, the devastation of whole societies was dismissed as necessary for imperial success and justified by appeals to religious, racial and cultural superiority (warm furry animals than to prioritize protection of the rights of indigenous peoples whose stewardship of habitats and use of many warm furry animals is harder to encapsulate as a bumper sticker. Environmentalists have often opposed indigenous use and occupation of (even access to) lands they classify as having high conservation values. Like other activities in remote aboriginal communities store functions and operations are strongly influenced by social factors. Some of these are part of the life of any small community, but others reflect aboriginal social structures and behavioral norms. (Neill 2002).

The concept of ‘marginalization’ can be applied to Australian aboriginal community. It means the consignment of peripheral societies to perpetual poverty and disadvantage in terms of means of sustenance and provision of services. Economic development cannot stand alone but is firmly embedded within social and political contexts and is a product of its history (Taylor 2004). Industrialization, with its emphasis on regular work, regimentation and, at least at managerial levels, striving to beat one’s fellow humans in the game of life, may well conflict with modes of behavior which stress flexibility, choice, sharing and reciprocity and place a high value on community rather than personal advantage. Failure to acknowledge such a conflict may lead to enormous expenditure of human and economic resources on projects of little long-term benefit to those in need.

In spite of great changes and improvements in life of aboriginal population, they obtain the lowest social position and excluded from destitution of resources. Low class location prevents indigenous population to obtain social respect and opportunities available for middle and high class citizens. For instance, it is difficult for indigenous population to give good education for their children. From the early age, indigenous population children are “excluded” from society (Phillips & Lampert 2005). It means that they do have a chance to receive good education and find a high paid job. They receive poor education or do not receive it at all because of social position of their parents. Also, because of low social position and lack of financial support they receive poor medical aid in contrast to other citizens. It is supposed that: ‘there could be national reconciliation without any redress at all of the dispossession and other wrongs sustained by the Aborigines. As a practical matter, however, it is apparent that recognition of the need for appropriate redress for present disadvantage” (Commonwealth of Australia 1997). This leaves indigenous peoples in a problematic situation in terms of human rights. Also, historical circumstances have pushed many indigenous groups into a marginal existence on the peripheries of the mainstreams of social and political life of the dominant cultures in the nation states in which they live. For many, physical survival has been possible only through assimilation, often incomplete, resisted and resented, into the settler populations around them. For others, their existence on lands desired by others has been sufficient cause for genocidal attacks, sometimes sanctioned by the state. “Radical changes in their political environment can enable the institutionalization of new traditions in both urban and rural communities. At a global level this can be perceived in the practices relating to Indigenous identity” (Smith and Ward 2003, p. 3).

In order to improve this situation, the state and local authorities introduce special programs (social and educational programs) for indigenous populations and medical services for isolated communities. Effective education is always an important part of social inclusion and participation in public affairs. Government development programs are therefore of overwhelming importance, particularly for people in the more remote parts of the country. Provincial and territory governments should be also involved, both through their local administration of programs and also, to a much lesser extent, through their own programs, which apply to aboriginal as well as non-aboriginal applicants. In Australia, present day policies affecting aboriginal development reflect a history of changing attitudes, including colonialist views and more recent acceptance of the need for aboriginal self-determination coupled with greater economic self-sufficiency and community-based development. Also, it is important to support the right of indigenous population on self-determination. Actually, this process was initiated by Australia’s 1967 referendum, demanded a radical shift of attitude on the part of many Australians. It also needed practical expression, through programs which demonstrated both to Aboriginal people and to the electorate that the federal government intended to keep its promises. It is important to support indigenous population by using indigenous languages, practicing traditional cultural, religious or even economic activities, acting to protect indigenous territories from unwanted intrusions by settlers, developers or state institutions, or taking legal action to establish rights to cultural or territorial autonomy. Also, in order to improve social position of this group, the state should introduce special laws and educate this population as for norms and rules dominated in modern society. “The core of Aboriginal Law has to do with the knowledge and ritual pertaining to sacred sites” (Commonwealth of Australia 1994).


In sum, assertion of indigenous identity is crucial for indigenous Australians, their social and economic status. State-sponsored suppression of indigenous identities, on the other hand, is protected from international intervention by categorizing such matters as internal domestic matters. Transformation can be induced through economic processes and lead to development within all sectors of indigenous society. Rather than the advantages of industrial development—the jobs, higher incomes and educational opportunities— the most important is to recognize current needs and help these social group to became an integral part of socio-economic system. Rural-urban migration often is on a scale sufficiently massive as to cause huge social disruption. The moral and social duty of the state is to provide fair policies and interventions in order to preserve national and cultural identities of these people and help them to become ‘equal’ to the rest of the Australian community.


Commonwealth of Australia (1997). Bringing them home: national inquiry into the seperation of aboriginal and torres strait islander children from their families, Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission Sydney. 2007. Web.

Commonwealth of Australia (1994). Royal commission into aboriginal deaths in custody; Australian Government Publishing Service, Canberra. 2007.

Groenfeldt, D. (2003). The Future of Indigenous Values: Cultural Relativism in the Face of Economic Development. Futures 35 (9), 917.

Neill, R 2002, White out: how politics is killing black Australia, Allen & Unwin, Crows Nest, NSW.

Phillips, J, & Lampert, J 2005, Introductory Indigenous studies in education: the importance of knowing, Pearson Prentice Hall, Frenchs Forest, NSW.

Taylor, J. (2004). Population Mobility and Indigenous Peoples in Australasia and North America. Routledge; 1 edition.

Smith, C., Ward, G. K. Globalisation, Decolonisation and Indigenous Australia. Australian Aboriginal Studies, 2000, p. 3.

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