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Aboriginal Australians

1 July 1988

The indigenous peoples of Australia once inhabited the whole continent. For over 40,000 years their rich and varied culture revolved around the inland. In 1788 began the white invasion of Australia which over the next 150 years destroyed many Aboriginal communities. Thousands of Aborigines died of disease, from poison, in frontier wars. Their land was stolen and used for agriculture, grazing and mining. Aboriginal rights were unrecognized in law.

Two hundred years later the Aborigines have achieved legal equality. But often these rights are disregarded and they face massive inequalities in housing, education, employment and health compared to other Australians. They are more likely to be arrested and imprisoned. Since 1980 over 100 young Aboriginal men have died while in police custody.

But the greatest loss has been of land and it is the need to regain and protect the land which has been the impetus behind contemporary Aboriginal political activity – a struggle which many Aborigines believe has been betrayed by successive governments.

Please note that the terminology in the fields of minority rights and indigenous peoples’ rights has changed over time. MRG strives to reflect these changes as well as respect the right to self-identification on the part of minorities and indigenous peoples. At the same time, after over 50 years’ work, we know that our archive is of considerable interest to activists and researchers. Therefore, we make available as much of our back catalogue as possible, while being aware that the language used may not reflect current thinking on these issues.

Download (1996 reprint, PDF, English)


Keith D. Suter

Kaye Stearman