Two phases of 'assimilation'
In the 1930s, there was much support among Aboriginal affairs 'experts' for interbreeding: Indigenous girls of mixed descent, having been separated from their Indigenous families of origin by various means, would marry white men; their children would also marry whites until, over several generations, 'colour' would be bred out. This perspective on the future was flawed: it held out little hope for men of mixed descent, and it required white Australians to be more accepting of women of mixed descent than they were. As well, the appalling consequences of Nazism helped to discredit all such schemes of 'racial engineering'. Recent discussions of the 'stolen generations' have given Indigenous Australians the chance to criticise the intrusiveness of official efforts - inspired by this notion of 'assimilation' - to determine the lives of so-called 'half-castes'.
Australian governments were converted to a rather different policy of 'assimilation' in the late 1940s. Indigenous Australians' participation in the Second World War showed them to be not only highly educable, but also worthy of education and inclusion as citizens. 'Assimilation' policy would now mean that governments would educate all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and, as well, would dismantle any administration and legislation which kept Indigenous Australians apart and in a condition of second class citizenship.
Keywords: assimilation, racism, Stolen Generation, Torres Strait Islanders, World War 2, 1930-1949
Author: Rowse, Tim and Graham, Trevor