The rights and freedoms of Aboriginals have improved drastically since 1945 with many changes to government policy, cultural views and legal rules to bring about a change from oppression to equality. Unfortunately on the other hand, some rights and freedoms have not improved at all or have even worsened. Firstly the change in legal and constitutional rights have been a great creator of rights for the Aboriginal people. Up until 1967 the Aboriginals did not have the right to be counted in the census.
This was basically a way of saying that the Aboriginals were not Australians, almost not even people. Fortunately the 1967 referendum gave Aboriginals citizenship. It did however not end any discrimination against the Aboriginal people and merely allowed them to legally join society but not socially join society. Another change to Aboriginal rights and freedoms was the constitutional change also by the 1967 referendum which allowed the federal government to pass laws over the Aboriginal people.
This was to change section 51 of the constitution which stated “The Parliament shall, subject to this Constitution, have power to make laws for the peace, order, and good government of the Commonwealth with respect to: ….. The people of any race, other than the aboriginal people in any State, for whom it is deemed necessary to make special laws. ” This was great news as it stopped the states making unfair laws on Aboriginals and stopping them from travelling from state to state.
On the other side however it was completely disrespectful as it stated the commonwealth must show respect to everyone except the Aboriginals. Another large milestone in the improving rights of the Aboriginals was the fight and subsequent win over land rights. The quest for land rights began in 1963 with the Bark Petition. The bark petition was a petition that was sent from the Yolngu people to the federal parliament that was written on a piece of bark. Unfortunately for the Aboriginals, this petition was rejected and instead the land rights were given to a local mining company.
This ruling was justified under the concept of Terra Nullius, saying that the land was not settled. Another challenge to land ownership was the Tent Embassy on the parliament house lawns. This constant public pressure caused the government to express interest in giving land rights to Aboriginals. This was completed with Justice Woodward’s report in 1974 that recommended that Aboriginal reserves are to be returned to Aboriginal ownership, that Aboriginals had claim to vacant land if they could prove ties with the land, that Aboriginal sacred sites were protected.
This was great as it gave power to the Aboriginals. It did however also mean that if they had sacred land that was already owned if not even used would not be returned to them. This was passed in 1976 when the Aboriginal Land Rights Act was passed. Later in 1981 the Northern Territory government opposes land rights and attempts to amend the land rights act to stop claims of owned stations and property. The attitudes of the white Australians also had a huge impact on change of rights and freedoms as it pressured the government into giving Aboriginals rights and freedoms.
The 1967 was testament to this when a huge 90. 77% of Australians agreed that Aboriginals had the right to be counted in the census. There has never been any real public objections to giving aboriginals rights, merely quiet harbored prejudices in the persons’ mind. On the other side of the case the Aboriginal rights in general have not improved with many Aboriginals being mistreated and discriminated against. The statistics do not speak honestly about public opinion.
The rights and freedoms of Aboriginals have been fuelled by an ever increasing wave of Aboriginal activism and increased self-esteem. Aboriginal activism began with the Bark Petition in 1963 and has caused almost all of the government change. The freedom rides of 1964, the Wave Hill protest in 1966, Even the abolishment of the policy of assimilation was caused by the Aboriginals constant protest and pain of the stolen generation. The most dominant display of Aboriginal activism however was the creation of the Tent Embassy on the lawns of Parliament House.
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