Aboriginal Identity Essay

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In the late eighteenth century prior to the arrival of the first European settlers, Australia was once believed to be a terra nullius, an uninhabited “nothing land.” The European colonizers of Australia sought to make something of this land they believed they had discovered. Operating under this false notion, colonizers systematically invaded and conquered Australia, imposing their own ways onto the land and its original custodians, the Aboriginal people. The introduction of western settlements disrupted much of Aboriginal life. In a publication titled, Is it in the Blood? Australian Aboriginal Identity, author Myrna Ewart Tonkinson discusses Western imperialism and its implications on Aboriginal identity. According to Tonkinson, what mattered…show more content…
However, once policy makers realized that not all Indigenous Australians wished to conform to their ways of being, policies began to shift. In 1967, a national referendum granted citizenship to Aboriginal Australians. Despite this referendum, the Aboriginal Australians sought to establish their own identity outside of European notions of Aboriginality. In looking at how the Indigenous Australians have come to define themselves, the author describes two modes of Aboriginal identity: local and pan-Aboriginal. According to European classifications, Indigenous populations were seen as a homogenous group. However, defining the Indigenous Australians in this way diminishes geographic, linguistic, and cultural diversity that existed among these populations. According to Tonkinson, “despite many cultural similarities between groups, it is the differences that are most conspicuous and significant from the Aboriginal viewpoint…[Aboriginal] people often invoke their uniqueness of language, traditional territory, and kinship in asserting their [local] identity” (193). Pan-Aboriginality, is the “construction of a common culture out of a situation of cultural diversity,” and this, according to Tonkinson, is “essential in building solidarity among a minority population and endowing it with a political force in the Australian nation” (215). In uniting themselves under a common struggle, Aboriginals have

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