Still Here – A brief History of Aboriginal People in Melbourne’s West

Panel 5 – Assimilation

A strong movement developed by both government and the churches to move Aboriginal people onto missions from as early as 1840. This move was ostensibly to protect the Aborigines from the growing European society but was used to control and destroy Aboriginal culture.

Although Assimilation was a common practice it was never written or recorded In any official document until 1957, when one of the aims stated In the Aboriginal Act of that year was to help the Aboriginal people ‘assimilate’ to become part of the Australian society.

Assimilation was practiced in Victoria up until 1971. Although in 1967 there was a referendum which granted the Aboriginal people citizenship, it effectively took three and a half years to change all the different state laws in Australia before these illegal practices finally died out.

“Assimilation. This is how they started, first they started dressing Aboriginal people like Europeans. Then they moved them down to missions and reserves, herded them all together. They tried raising them like Europeans. Like Thomas Bungelene, the first example, and the first example of failure because he didn’t live to be an old man. They even denied the history of that happening. They denied the history of assimilation happening and they denied the history of now, the present, the children being taken away.

‘Still Here’ is trying to revive the history and show how it Influences today because what happened to him
happened to people right up until the seventies…

I have to have a shave and a haircut. Otherwise I’m not accepted as decent enough or intelligent enough, or a person of any standing.