Occupational Deprivation: A Consequence of Australia's Policy of Assimilation

Zeldenryk, Lynne Michelle, and Yalmambirra, - (2006) Occupational Deprivation: A Consequence of Australia's Policy of Assimilation. Australian Occupational Therapy Journal, 53 (1). pp. 43-46.

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Wilcock (2003) has recently reminded our profession of the importance of understanding the occupational experiences of the past, in order to recognise how historical events impact on the health of individuals and communities today. One area of Australia’s history we have found to be notably absent from occupational therapy and occupational science literature is that of the forced removal of indigenous children from their families. However, we believe this period of Australian history holds many lessons for our profession. Hence, within this paper we aim to give a brief overview of Australia’s policy of assimilation of indigenous Australians and how enactment of this policy deprived indigenous youth of engagement in culturally significant occupations. We argue that this lack of engagement of culturally significant occupations is a clear example of occupational deprivation. Whiteford (2000) describes occupational deprivation as ‘a state of preclusion from engagement in occupations of necessity and/or meaning due to factors that stand outside the immediate control of the individual’ (p. 201).

Within this paper, we analyse how the forced removal of children from their families and communities, through the Commonwealth policy of assimilation, was indeed an external force of control that deprived indigenous children of culturally significant occupations.

This paper outlines our analysis of three aspects of occupational deprivation we believe resulted from children being forcibly removed from their families. (i) in Deprivation of a culturally significant social environment, we discuss how indigenous children were denied access to their families, and consequently prevented from learning their cultures and their associated roles and occupations; (ii) in Spiritual deprivation of one’s land and story, we examine how children were prevented from engaging in occupations relating to the stories of their people, their land and their role within society (the Dreamings, the Dreamtime and/or the Dreaming); (iii) in Deprivation of initiation processes, we analyse how children were denied their rightful place in initiation processes, ceremonies, and occupations, leading to the preclusion of the establishment of culturally significant roles within their community. We will examine evidence of these significant forms of occupational deprivation in an attempt to gain some insight into an area of occupational justice which, so far, has been left untouched within occupational therapy literature.

Item ID: 9715
Item Type: Article (Commentary)
ISSN: 1440-1630
Keywords: assimilation, Indigenous Australians, occupational deprivation, social justice.
Date Deposited: 04 May 2010 04:07
FoR Codes: 11 MEDICAL AND HEALTH SCIENCES > 1117 Public Health and Health Services > 111701 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health @ 50%
11 MEDICAL AND HEALTH SCIENCES > 1199 Other Medical and Health Sciences > 119999 Medical and Health Sciences not elsewhere classified @ 50%
SEO Codes: 92 HEALTH > 9203 Indigenous Health > 920399 Indigenous Health not elsewhere classified @ 50%
92 HEALTH > 9202 Health and Support Services > 920201 Allied Health Therapies (excl. Mental Health Services) @ 50%
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