The Aboriginal reserves debate of the inter-war years

McGregor, Russell (1995) The Aboriginal reserves debate of the inter-war years. Journal of The Royal Historical Society of Queensland, 15 (11). pp. 545-552.

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[Extract] Between the two world wars, proponents of Aboriginal reserves were sharply divided on the question of what reservation was supposed to achieve. On one side were those who argued that reserves should preserve a remnant of the Aboriginal race and culture in its pristine state by completely cutting off their inhabitants from all outside contacts. On the other side were those who maintained that, while reserves should shelter Aborigines from the corrupting edge of European civilisation, their paramount purpose was to instruct their inmates in Western ways of life and thought. It may be easy to interpret both options as symptomatic of a white Australian disdain for Aborigines: the former seeking to marginalise them by shutting them away in closed communities; the latter seeking merely to destroy Aboriginal culture. Yet a closer examination of the reserves debate in its contemporary intellectual context may reveal more complex motivations than the self-interest of the socially-dominant. This paper examines the reserves debate as a manifestation of that strand of intrusive humanitarianism which, though waxing and waning at various times, has nm throughout white Australian relations with the indigenous inhabitants. For convenience it focuses on the writings of three protagonists to the debate: Frederic Wood Jones, Professor of Anatomy at the University of Melbourne; Jones' young protege, the anthropologist Donald Thomson, who, with Jones, lobbied for the creation of closed reserves; and A.P. Elkin, Professor of Anthropology at the University of Sydney, who supported the alternative reserve strategy.

Item ID: 12074
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1447-1345
Keywords: Aboriginal policy; segregation; Aboriginal reserves
Date Deposited: 15 Oct 2010 00:07
FoR Codes: 21 HISTORY AND ARCHAEOLOGY > 2103 Historical Studies > 210301 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander History @ 100%
SEO Codes: 95 CULTURAL UNDERSTANDING > 9505 Understanding Past Societies > 950503 Understanding Australias Past @ 100%
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