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The Breakdown of Indigenous Culture in Australia Essay


Culture is the entireness of socially imparted behavioral practices from one generation to the other. Culturally transferred patterns, from one generation to the other, play a vital role in the society, and determine the future prospects of that society (Angelo, 1994, p.10). The Indigenous culture in Australia has been systematically broken down since white settlement.

In the Aboriginal culture and beliefs, Aboriginal Australia has taken a position of a living legacy of spiritual knowledge and culture. In addition, there has been sharing of different affairs through rituals, art, dance and many more into what they referred as dreamtime (Black, 1983, p.28). The Aborigines believed that their spiritual ancestors descended from the sky. Ceremonial songs functioned to honor legends of the dreamtime creation era.

Before the settlement of the Europeans in Australia in the 17th century, there was an estimate of over 600 groups of Aborigines. These groups had different dialects and cultures that gave them identity (Angelo, 1994, p.23). The settlement of the Europeans in Australia had superficial effects on the Aboriginal groups in the continent.

Most of the dwellers believe that if they retained their culture as before, the groups’ status could be the same as those of individual countries with different languages like the ones that make up Europe. However, the British attempt to incorporate Australia into their empire, brought their success into an end.

The 17th century marks the start of the modern Australian history to most of the individuals. This perception is in contrast with the view of the Aborigines since to them; it marks the beginning of the European invasion.

The Europeans expected the Australian natives to integrate into their (European) ways promptly and without any question. The aborigines came across many social attitudes beyond their understanding. In addition, introduction of firearms, alcohol, and other devices took place leading to premature deaths of many Aborigines.

The sudden introduction of the social evils from the western world resulted into considerable destruction to the Aborigines who had a cultural aim of living in harmony with each other. The Aborigines became foreigners in their own land since the Europeans had assumed supreme authority over everything on the land (Baldaulf, 1995, p.53). In addition, the Europeans treated the Aborigines in a harsh manner resulting to their inability to access the sacred sites and their hunting ventures ended.

The Aborigines went through intense discrimination leading to condemnation and ridiculing of their lifestyle. During the colonial time, regarding of the Aborigines as inferior led to lying down of missioners to keep them away from the society by closely supervising them all the time (Black, 1983, p.32).

The colonialists claimed that the main aim of the close supervision was to protect the Aborigines from the Europeans. The missioners had a resemblance of concentration camps and the rules were that, unauthorized individuals could not leave or enter the designated areas. The missioners also barred natives from accessing some hospitals, which was a sign of total discrimination. In this essence, the Europeans portrayed no cultural diversity in the society.

The missions forced the Aborigines to speak and dress like them with an intention of destroying the original society, and this made the Aborigines forget their traditional culture. This act killed cultural diversification since the Aborigines had no right to exercise their culture (Basso, 1998, p.20).

In addition, the missions intended to bring to extinction the Aboriginal’s blood. Later, the white Australians adopted the Aborigines babies with an intention that they could forget their past and adapt with the white world. Moreover, the white Australians went to the extent of having powers to control the possessions of the Aborigines.

The white Australians could not allow the Aborigines into the public facilities and occasions. Discrimination was not because the Aborigines could not afford for the services; no, they were considered primitive and uncivilized.

In addition, the whites placed curfews in some areas, which meant that the Aborigines could not remain in town after certain hours. Moreover, discrimination took place even in education and health sectors. This also extended into the land ownership and employment opportunities, even though, the discriminatory practices were unlawful.

Since the 18th century until late 19th century, there occurred controversy on the removal of children from the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders. The federal and the state government had the responsibility of doing this. This was in collaboration with the church agencies as an official government policy (Black, 1983, p.40).

There was no clear reason of doing this and it remained uncontested by the people. The only known explanation indicated that the government feared the Aboriginal population would become extinct due to disease outbreaks. However, others held that the move was meant to protect children.

In the 20th century, many changes in various sectors have taken place to avoid discrimination among the people. It is only a few years down the line since the Aborigines gained recognition as Australian citizens. It is during this time where most people agreed that the Aborigine should also have equal treatment as the ordinary Australians (Basso, 1998, p.23).

Even after the passing of these laws, the Aborigines have continued to experience discrimination though they have greater control over their lives. In addition, only after a few decades, the Aborigines started experiencing an improved sense of equality. This was through better residential schemes, employment opportunities, education and many more.

Moreover, the Aborigines regained of their land and still hoped that, with time, there would be an improvement on the attitude between different cultural groups. Currently, most of the Australians have pushed for reconciliation that will unite the indigenous and the non-indigenous Australians.

In the modern Australia, most of the customs and activities have taken a new direction following the European contact. With this regard, new ways were passed from one generation to the other, considering them as traditional (Black, 1983, p.42). Changes in the Aboriginal culture have taken place over the last many years. Archeological studies reveal this aspect, indicating that, there is no specific Aboriginal traditional culture since it varies with time and place.

In the entire continent of Australia, Aboriginal language and culture is not uniform. The difference varies with demographic regions. The curved returning boomerang and the didgeridoo are examples of the Aboriginal culture. These two examples did spread well along the different regions of Australia.

The returning boomerang took place in the southeastern part (Fasold, 1984, p.21). On the other hand, the didgeridoo, used during ceremonies, took place in the northern part. The continent had over 350 tribes each having its own language and traditions. In Australia, certain facets of culture exist in some parts but are lacking in the others because the continent is made of groups of states. This means that some practices took place in some areas, by particular tribes.

Rise in sea level separated the Aborigines from the south from the mainland before the arrival of the Europeans. The aborigines in the south were the most isolated individuals in the world. They missed the humankind innovations in the stone technology (Dixon, 1980, p.50). People in the far north do not consider themselves as Aborigines; they consider themselves as a distinct group, and their culture is a blend of the Aborigines from the mainland and that of individuals from Papua New Guinea.

In the modern Australia, the Aboriginals have almost adopted the living styles of the European culture; only a few groups can show or define their native culture. In other areas, families in the remote regions are working hard to maintain the traditions and live in ceremonial life (Janke, 1998, p.10).

In addition, there are people living in the Aboriginal communities buying most of the basic needs and at times following the traditional methods of survival. Moreover, at the far end are the urban Aborigines who have adopted the European living styles. Inevitable changes such as the modern transport and living style had to take place in the Australian continent.

Contemporary Australia is rooted in liberal democratic traditions. In Australia, three key societal values that include tolerance, informality, and egalitarianism, are well known. Anglo-Celtic origins have highly influenced the Australian’s culture (Janke, 1998, p.12). In addition, multi-ethnic migrations have also influenced the Australian life.

Australia does not have an official language though English is the prevalent language. According to the recent census, a population of approximately 80% mostly uses English in homes because of influence by the colonialists where the indigenous language had no meaning. A good number of migrants in Australia are bilingual.

During the time of the first European contact, more than 200 Aboriginal languages were in existence; however, approximately 70 languages are in existence currently (Fasold, 1984, p.23). Different developments that took place in the Australian continent threatened the indigenous languages. In some states, few indigenous languages survived. In countries where Europeans settled, indigenous languages underwent embattlement since the start of the colonial power.

Colonialists in Australia based division of labor in gender, where women were associated with the private sphere. In addition, they were also associated with the unpaid work and the home (Dixon, 1980, p.56). On the other hand, men were associated with the public sphere. Moreover, men got associated with the paid work and the larger society. Division of labor was dominant during the early years of settlement. It is during this era when women took the role of homemakers whose role was to bring civility to men.

In the traditional Australia, grouping of occupations was sex-segregated. Since 1970s, passing of policies to promote gender equality in all areas took place (Campbell, 1997, p.78). This gave more room for women to participate in the secondary and higher education. In addition, there was an increase in the general workforce and availability of childcare. Cultural diversity has taken place in this essence bringing changes in areas like these where women have equal roles as men.

In the formation of the government, Australia uses the British system. Elections take place after every four years for the federal, state, and territorial seats (Black, 1983, p.45). In the past, during the colonial rule, the Australian continent had different regions as they are nowadays.

The system of the political parties in Australia bears features of the arrangements made by the federation of state. Three levels of government leaderships exist where democratic voting of the officials takes place. This gives the people freedom of choice compared to the colonial empire where dictation took place.

Social stratification in Australia falls under three categories. These classes include the working, the middle, and the upper class. The differences between the three groups raise alarm seriously. Individuals considered as the wealthiest fall in the upper class category. These individuals get their wealth from land ownership and capital generation.

The middle class has individuals with non-manual occupations. As aforementioned, materials owned underscore the class of an individual; therefore, expensive clothes, cars, and homes characterize individuals in the upper class. The economic value of these properties varies across the regions (Basso, 1998, p.34). In other cases, the property owned cannot always characterize the class of different individuals. Patterns of speech and the mode of lifestyles may be strong indicators of a given class.

Social welfare in Australia takes the notion of egalitarianism. In the wake of the 19th century, lawmaking has furthered impartiality in the society. This was meant to improve the chances to individuals with different disabilities. During the colonial era, the Aborigines received massive discrimination from the whites in terms of accessing public facilities.

The most common welfare issues are the rising unemployment and the aged people (Baldaulf, 1995, p.67). In addition, childcare, poverty, and helping individuals from the remote areas fall in the list. It is the culture of the Australians to offer equal treatment to the needy individuals without discrimination.

Australians have the freedom to religion. The constitution supports this by guaranteeing religious freedom. In Australia, there is no official national religion, and this aspect puts Christianity in the forefront as the dominant religion in the country.

The colonialists introduced the Anglican belief in the 17th century and most of the population identify with Christianity. Australia has gained its fame in religious diversity due to the extensive immigration. All faiths have gained a representation in the country since most of the indigenous people have embraced Christianity.

This has resulted from the close relationship between the citizens and the missionaries (Angelo, 1994, p.46). Religious alternatives had a small presence since the 1850s. The New Age movement represents a set of growing beliefs. The movement arrived in the 1960s and was able to spread greatly by the 1990s giving some way for paganism. In addition, it has given way for other aspects of the occult among a small fraction of the citizens.

In conclusion, the settling of the Europeans in Australia played a prominent role in changing the culture of the Aborigines. The Europeans changed the lifestyle of the Aborigines tremendously by making them leave their indigenous culture. They have also brought to extinction the different tribes that were the original people of the country making them abandon their indigenous languages (Janke, 1998, p.89).

The 20th century brought many changes in different areas though the Australians did not abandon some of the things they acquired during the colonial empire. In the current Australia, the government formation has taken after the British systems who were their colonizers. Bearing all the above in mind, it suffices to conclude that the indigenous culture in Australia has been broken down since the white settlement.

Reference List

Angelo, D. (1994). Australian phrasebook. Victoria: Lonely planet.

Baldaulf, R. (1995). Backing Australian languages: Review of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages initiatives program. Canberra: National languages and literacy institute of Australia.

Basso, K. (1998). Wisdom sits in places: Language and landscape among the western Apache. Albuquerque: University of Mexico press.

Black, P. (1983). Aboriginal languages of the northern territory. Batchelor: SAL.

Campbell, L. (1997). American Indian languages. London: Oxford university press.

Dixon, R. (1980). The languages of Australia. Australia: Cambridge university press.

Fasold, R. (1984). The sociolinguistics of society. Oxford: Blackwell.

Janke, T. (1998). Our culture, our future: Report on Australian indigenous cultural and intellectual property rights. Canberra: Viberg press.

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