University of Tasmania
Daniels_whole_Thesis.pdf (2.18 MB)

The assertion of Tasmanian Aboriginality from the 1967 referendum to Mabo

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posted on 2023-05-26, 09:50 authored by Daniels, DW
This paper takes as its starting point a period before the 1967 Referendum which gave full citizenship rights to Australian Aborigines and the Federal Government a mandate over Aboriginal Affairs. During the 40's and 50's the Aboriginal people of Tasmania, represented by the people of Cape Barren Island, stubbornly resisted the assimilation policies of the day. In briefly examining the thesis of resistance as proposed by Lyndall Ryan in her 1981 edition of The Aboriginal Tasmanians, and the proposition that the Government sought to abandon the Island, the paper draws upon new material. Despite the referendum the State government like the wider community saw little relevance to Tasmania, denying the existence of Aborigines as such, but joining in the Commonwealth/State Conferences of Aboriginal Affairs to safeguard State interests, obtain funds to prop up services to the Island, particularly health, and to secure housing finance. Support for the Aboriginal cause, however, was not lacking. The Aboriginal Advancement League based in Devonport, the Communist Party of Tasmania and Abschol, which was to become the Australian Union of Students action group for Aboriginal rights, were to play a role in sensitising the Tasmanian community to Aboriginal issues and in seeking justice for Tasmanian Aborigines. It was Abschol, however, which was to become the dominant non- Aboriginal organisation in the pursuit of Aboriginal rights. In the early '70's the Tasmanian Aboriginal people decided to take over their own destiny. This assertion was led by Rosalynd Langford, a Victorian Aborigine of Tasmanian descent. In 1972 the Aboriginal Information Centre (later the Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre) was established. This paper looks at the history of TAC over the next 20 years. It was to become one of the most forceful and successful black political organisations in Australia and we examine the reason for that success. Whilst the figure of Michael, Mansell emerges on the local, national and eventually the international scene, the record would not be complete if it neglected reference to other contributors to the struggle. Neither would the story be complete without reference to the genealogical work of Mollison et al, the whole question of Aboriginality, the reworking of Aboriginal history from the people's perspective, cultural renewal and Aboriginal spirituality. Central to this issue of history and identity is the world wide quest for the skeletal remains of the Van Diemen's Land people and their return to Tasmania, which the paper identifies as a brilliant strategy of unification and consciousness raising, but one full of emotional and spiritual overtones. This paper concludes with an examination .of the struggle for Land Rights in Tasmania. At this point in time some form of Land Rights legislation seems inevitable, although as the story tells, Aboriginal people have had their previous hopes dashed on a number of occasions. *There is, however, a further matter on the Aboriginal agenda; self government. To underestimate these later aspirations is to fail to recognise the power and commitment of the Tasmanian Aboriginal people. * Note: In November 1995 an Aboriginal Lands Bill passed through the Tasmanian Parliament (proclaimed 6 December, 1995), 'transferring certain lands to the Aboriginal people and establishing an Aboriginal Lands trust.


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Copyright 1995 the Author - The University is continuing to endeavour to trace the copyright owner(s) and in the meantime this item has been reproduced here in good faith. We would be pleased to hear from the copyright owner(s).

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