Labour History: A Journal of Labour and Social History

‘A Helping White Hand’: Assimilation, Welfare and Victoria’s Transitional Aboriginal Housing Policy

Labour History: A Journal of Labour and Social History (2004), 87, (1), 193–208.

Abstract

The provision of welfare for Aboriginal Australians has always been a complex and contentious issue. Since 1788, many secular and religious Aboriginal welfare programs were based on paternalistic ideals which reinforced the need for Australian society to be hierarchical. These programs were often based on racial theories, such as ‘Social Darwinism’, which deemed Aboriginal people to be inferior beings in need of State supervision and care. Consequently, many Australian states and territories passed protectionist legislation to isolate and socially control Aborigines. In the 1930s, changing ideas of race resulted in the re-evaluation of Aboriginal welfare policies and protectionism was replaced with assimilationism. In theory, assimilation placed Aborigines on equal terms with Anglo-Australians. However, years of exclusion from Anglo-Australian society meant that many Aboriginal people were unprepared for life in minstream communities. To make this transition easier for Aborigines, many Anglo-Australians became involved in assimilationist welfare activities. Although elements of paternalism were sometimes evident in the new régime, ideas of citizenship and equality often dominated welfare programs. This new attitude towards Aboriginal affairs was evident in the provision of Aboriginal welfare at two housing estates, Rumbalara and Manatunga, in Victoria in the 1950s and 1960s. This study explores the complexities of Aboriginal welfare at these estates and Aboriginal responses to assimilationist initiatives.

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Author details

Manning, Corinne

Table of Contents

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