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Indigenous Culture for Health and Wellbeing

Introduction to Preserving Australian Aboriginal Culture

Indigenous or the aboriginals hold about 300 to 500 million population strength all over the world, which nurture and represent around 80% of the world’s culture and heritage and occupying 20% of the space on earth (abs, 2018). Indigenous or the aboriginals occupy a diverse space in the world and are present in almost every part of the world, forming a broad spectrum of humanity. They represent the evolution of the mankind from hunting, gathering to subsistence farming. In some areas, they are a majority while in most nations they represent the minority of the population. The most important fact about indigenous people is that they are mostly concerned with the culture, nature and their own territory. Some aboriginals choose to live in their original style of conventional living with no change tolerated while others try and include in the modern society. This paper aims to give all-encompassing information about the past and current condition of the aboriginals and their culture.

Aboriginals or Indigenous People in Australia

The Australian indigenous people are the familial heritage groups to those who lived in Australia before British colonies including the aboriginals and the Torres Strait islander population in Australia. From the starting years of the invasion, there are various stories of massacres which have been handed down from different generations in Australia which can be found in the old journals and letters that present a horrific picture of the treatment of aboriginals in Australia in those early years (Bourke, 2018).

The above image highlights Australia’s history of slavery. In 2008 Australia PM Kevin Rudd had formerly apologized to the aboriginal people of Australia for the government’s earlier polices of forced removal of children and assimilation of the indigenous. Australia PM’s public apology is a proof that not only the British but after Australia became a free nation, its policies towards the aboriginals were not friendly; in fact they were oppressing and inhumane. The above image is after 1901 when Australia as a nation was free, neck chains have been used until 1960s.

A New Ray of Hope for Development of Australians Aboriginal

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd with his apology in 2008 to aboriginals of Australia opened a new chapter in Australia as the tortured relation between Australia and its aboriginals would be no more and a changed policy of the Australian government would hold true for the coming years, though previous governments since the John Howard government had refused to apologize publicly for many years for this inhumane lawful treatment of the aboriginals. The policies of forceful assimilation of aboriginal children, breeding out the color were the central reasons of apology (Rudd, 2008).

Rights

Despite the international recognition and overall acceptance of the fundamental rights to all human beings, and numerous conventions being passed and ratified by governments, practically still today the rights of indigenous Australians have not been safeguarded as they should be. Indigenous people in Australia face serious threat even on their existence due to systematic government policies. In Australia, indigenous people are the most vulnerable in terms of human development index, illiteracy, unemployment etc. (Shepherd, 2017). In many international conferences and conventions, some countries have argued that a more planned and ethical application of human rights norms would resolve the issues about the aboriginals, but on the other hand, representatives of the indigenous community have argued that international human rights conventions have consistently failed to protect their rights as they are non-forcible.

Current Status of the Culture and Steps by Government

The total population of the aboriginals in Australia stands at 800000 or 3.3% of the total population of Australia, which is a 19% increase from the estimates in 2011. The government accepted the recommendations of the committee (abs, 2018) of the languages learning within the indigenous communities and its revitalization. Recently released Australia National Cultural Policy identifies the central role of the aboriginals and the Torres Strait Islander’s role in preserving the culture of Australia and has provided additional fund of $14 million for four years for indigenous language support program. Australian government has also recognized the role of indigenous communities to maintain and revive their culture and language (Morgan, 2015).

A report titles Our Land Our Language has included a number of activities to be continued which are important to preserve and promote the culture and language of aboriginals. Some of these activities highlighted are-

  • Miroma Aboriginal language and technology center
  • the Papulu Appar-kari Language Corporation which develops innovative language resources for the barkly region which includes language nests.
  • the Mabu Yawaru Ngan-ga Language Centre- Promoting writing and speaking of the yawaru language and developing schools of it (aphref, 2013).

Government of Australia acknowledges and considers its role in the promotion and preservation of the culture and language of the aboriginal communities and has taken steps for building strong learning environment to sustain the committee’s recommendations (Morgan 2015).

The National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Education Policy was endorsed by all Australian governments in 1989 and with the agreement of both major parties it was adopted as the Commonwealth policy on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander education on January 1, 1990.

International Conventions for the Protection of Aboriginals and Indigenous People

  • The declaration on the human rights for the aboriginals (United Nations) - Adopted by United Nations in 2007.
  • Universal declaration on human rights- it was adopted in 1948 and is the most referred convention (Mellon, 2020).
  • International convention on the punishment and prevention on the crimes of genocide- adopted in 1951
  • The covenanting international on political and civil rights- adopted by UN in 1966.
  • International covenant on economic, social and cultural rights- adopted by UN in 1966.
  • Convention for the prevention of all forms of racial discrimination- adopted by UN in 1966.
  • International labor organization convention on the rights of laborers- adopted by UN in 1989
  • Convention on the rights of child- 1990 was the year of adoption in UN (nma, 2008).
  • Declaration of the rights of the indigenous people who belong to the national or ethnic, linguistic or religious minority- It was adopted in 1992; its application is applicable in the case of aboriginals as they are minorities in most of the counties (environment, n.d.).
  • The Vienna declaration- it was adopted in 1993 and it talks about the inherent dignity and the input of the aboriginals and indigenous people in the development of the Australian society and that it strongly appeals the international community for the economic and social upliftment of the indigenous with preservation of their culture and they define health as holistic (environment, n.d.).

Preservation of the Culture of Australian Aboriginals

 Bourke et al, (2018) throws light on the importance of culture of indigenous when they say that it has been constantly recognized in the world that the culture has an important influence on the indigenous people with reference to health and well-being, as it was seen in Australia that there has been a long history of continued demand to preserve and save freedom to maintain, revitalize the culture from the aboriginals in Australia. (Shepherd et al, 2017) say positive cultural identities can be beneficial for an individual as they contain a sense of belonging, security, purpose, social support and purposeful life

Australian Laws for the Indigenous Protection

The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Heritage Protection Act (ATSIHAP)- this act passed in1984 to protect the areas, objects and subjects which can define and have a relation with the indigenous people. It allows the environment minister to declare an area protected on the application of aboriginals (environment, n.d.).

Various stages in the meanwhile have adopted and passed the acts to save the aboriginal cultural heritage laws and showed their commitment of the international ratification of the laws like the aboriginal cultural heritage act 2003, Queensland, the natural conservation act of 2002 in Tasmania region, parliamentary committee of the aboriginal lands act of 2003 in south Australia, Southern Australia heritage aboriginal act of 2006 in Victoria (Shepherd et al, 2017) etc.

Local Sensitivity and Bias

According to most of the Australians hold some or other kinds of bias towards the aboriginals, and the survey covered around 11, 000 unique responses over 10 years. A third of the respondents have shown a strong implicit bias towards the aboriginals and the Torres Strait islander people (Mallon, 2020). This popular bias against the aboriginals in Australia whether natural or been created by the previous governments should strongly be addressed if Australia wants to change its history and the stain of aboriginal inhumanities (Shepherd et al, 2017). People’s empathy can be one of the strongest boons for the aboriginals to realize their utmost life potential. Positive cultural identities can be beneficial for an individual as they contain a sense of belonging, security, purpose, social support and purposeful life.

Conclusion on Preserving Australian Aboriginal Culture

The definition, identity, international stand of and for the aboriginals is discussed and related it with the present conditions of Australian aboriginals and indigenous people. It is to be noted that Australia has in recent decades resorted to the human rights of the aboriginal and the Torres strait islanders and now strong political and popular support is needed to compensate these aboriginals and to make them able to realize their utmost life potential. On the other hand, Australia has from time to time ratified the human rights conventions of the united nations and simultaneously it has a long history of inhuman treatment with the aboriginals, thus to save itself from international shame and even from international sanctions and friendly relations with countries sensitive on such issues, Australia needs to save and protect the culture and rights of aboriginals with utmost political will.

References for Preserving Australian Aboriginal Culture

Bourke, S., Wright, A., Guthrie, J., & Russell, L. (2018).Evidence Review of Indigenous Culture for Health and Wellbeing.The International Journal of Health, Wellness, and Society, 8(4).

Environment.gov.au (n.d.) Indigenous heritage laws department of Agriculture water and environment. Retrieved from https://www.environment.gov.au/heritage/laws/indigenous#:~:text=The%20Aboriginal%20and%20Torres%20Strait,particular%20significance%20to%20Aboriginal%20people.\

Legislation.gov.au (1976).Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act 1976.Federal Register of Legislation. Retrieved from https://www.legislation.gov.au/Details/C2019C00143

Mallon, F. (2020) Three in four hold anti-Aboriginal bias. Retrieved from https://www.youngwitness.com.au/story/6785697/three-in-four-hold-anti-aboriginal-bias/?cs=9397

Nma.gov.au (2008) National apology.National Museum Australia. Retrieved from https://www.nma.gov.au/defining-moments/resources/national-apology#:~:text=On%2013%20February%202008%20Prime,child%20removal%20and%20Indigenous%20assimilation.

Rudd, K. (2008).Motion of Apology to Australia’s Indigenous People. House of Representatives. Retrieved from http://138.25.65.17/au/journals/AUIndigLawRw/2008/1.pdf

Shepherd, S., Delgado, R., Sherwood, J., & Paradies, Y. (2017). The Impact of Indigenous Cultural Identity and Cultural Engagement on Violent Offending. BMC Public Health, 18(50)

Sivertsen, N., Harrington, A., & Hamiduzzaman, M. (2019).Exploring Aboriginal Aged Care Residents’ Cultural and Spiritual Needs in South Australia.BMC Health Services Research 19

Thorpe, K., & Galassi, M. (2014). Rediscovering Indigenous Languages: The Role and Impact of Libraries and Archives in Cultural Revitalization. Australian Academic & Research Libraries, 45(2).

Who.int (n.d.) International treaties and conventions. Gender, equity and human rights. Retrieved from https://www.who.int/gender-equity-rights/knowledge/treaties/en/

Abs.gov.in (2018) Estimates of aboriginal and Torres Strait islander Australians. Summary Commentary. Retrieved from https://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/mf/3238.0.55.001

Aphref.aph.gov.au (2013). Australian government response to the house of representatives standing committee on aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander affairs report. Retrieved from file:///D:/Downloads/http___www.aphref.aph.gov.au_house_committee_atsia_govt%20responses_languages.pdf

Morgan, B. (2015) A submission to the house of representatives standing committee on indigenous affairs inquiry into educational opportunities for aboriginal and Toress Strait Islanders students.

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