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The State of Modern Australian Aborigines


Questions of interethnic relations have always been the focus of the attention of politicians and researchers in states with multi-ethnic compositions. In this context, the longest-standing Aboriginal issue in the Maritime Union of Australia is one that has been highlighted in many studies. Aboriginal living standards have changed significantly since the mainland had been colonized. From total freedom of choice, Aborigines had first become slaves and faced discrimination, but their status is now being improved and relaxed by the government. This work aims to discuss the social and economic place of Aboriginal Australians in the country.

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Brief Overview

Australia is a continent in the Southern Hemisphere, as well as an independent State with the full official name of the Maritime Union of Australia. This state is made up of nearby islands in addition to the mainland itself. The Pacific Ocean bounds the mainland in the east and the Indian Ocean in the west and south. The country has a high level of development in the agriculture and mining industry and is the leading supplier of coal, gold, wheat, and iron ore to the world market. In this regard, it is odd that one of Australia’s key challenges is finding trade-offs with indigenous people (Altman and Martin 2009). The majority of the population is descended from immigrant arrivals that once displaced Aboriginal people. At the time the first English settlement was founded in 1788, it is believed that Australia had at least 250 Aboriginal languages (Cane 2017). The emergence of Europeans in Australia has been detrimental to Aboriginal people.

Indigenous Social Life

Contemporary Aboriginal people, like their ancestors, have their understanding of the creation of the world, which is closely linked to nature. Such views do not correlate with the worldview of the modern citizen, which causes many conflicts in Australian society (Altman and Martin 2009). The formation of new social attitudes and moralities takes years, and to bring two opposing sides of the same continent closer together, politicians must do much work.

The Australian government has long been making great efforts to help Indigenous people adapt to modern society. In the mid-twentieth century, Aborigines were formally given the right to vote (Taylor and Guerin 2019). Later, in the 1970s, legislation that discriminated against them was repealed, and several laws regulating race issues in Australia were enacted. Since the introduction of multicultural policies, Australian authorities have focused on public assistance and charity from community-based organizations concerning Aboriginal people (Sanders 2016). In addition to the establishment of individual settlements, a network of educational institutions, benefits, and allowances, the authorities have begun to provide compensation for violent assimilation policies against Aboriginal people.

This practice was carried out, in part, because years of the humiliation of the black population on the mainland had resulted in increased Aboriginal crime. Indigenous populations had been declining particularly rapidly in the areas with high numbers of European settlers (Altman and Martin 2009). This was due to many factors, including the emergence of diseases against which Aboriginal people had no immunity, severe conflicts, and a range of other consequences of the contact between people engaged in hunting and gathering as well as in cattle breeding and agriculture. Indigenous populations had been subjected to violence, oppression, and discrimination by Europeans invading their territory. After the land had been taken from Aborigines by visiting farmers, the natives with spears in their hands tried to resist people with firearms.

Nevertheless, despite some progress in national policies, Aboriginal people are not adapting to modern life easier. Indeed, their numbers have been increasing recently, and more indigenous people are beginning to lead active civilian lives and enjoy the benefits of civilization, but that is still not enough. According to the data presented in the Bandias, Fuller, and Holmes study (2012), the number of Aboriginal people without education is, on average, thirteen times higher than for urban residents. Adults encourage their children to study, but the authors argue that there are five indigenous people who have not completed school per one civilized citizen. This is why illiteracy, crime, and drug abuse are rampant among Indigenous people (Bandias, Fuller, and Holmes 2012). However, it can be expected that these trends will disappear over time.

A significant proportion of Indigenous Australians choose cities as their habitat. However, racial conflicts that existed decades ago still have consequences. Historically, Aboriginal people had lived in isolated areas and could not afford more comfortable housing because of their low income. However, some locals, especially those in the central part of the mainland, were consciously choosing the path their ancestors had taken. As a rule, it was tribal life outside agglomerations in self-constructed houses.

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This explains the fact that Indigenous Australians do not take care of their health in a traditional way, so they are often diagnosed with diseases in a terminal stage. Indigenous peoples’ original traditions include knowledge of herbal remedies and the use of natural resources (Taylor and Guerin 2019). The current Aboriginal generation has little understanding of their ancestral traditions because it is a marginal and dependent community for the most part (Altman and Martin 2009). The reasons for this deplorable situation are, primarily, the loss of traditional indigenous livelihoods, the consequences of the brutal policies of colonial authorities, and, the identity of the natives themselves. As is usually the case, the low-income level and lack of firm spiritual attitudes that followed the destruction of the old culture are accompanied by alcoholism. A significant number of Aboriginal people have severe problems with alcohol (Taylor and Guerin 2019). The consequence of this is not only numerous accidents and injuries but also tricky relationships with other people, including the descendants of immigrants.

It is misleading to think that the Australian Indigenous community is homogenous. Each Aboriginal social group has its language or at least dialects, traditions, and moral development (Altman and Martin 2009). Aboriginal people in the Northern territory represent a bright contrast to other sections and groups in Australian society. According to Bandias, Fuller, and Holmes (2012), they have the highest mortality rates, the worst health status, poor housing conditions, and the lowest economic, social, educational, and legal status. Over time, tribes have mixed with the immigration flows of people – this is how people of mixed ethnicity appeared. Wishing to isolate themselves from Aboriginal people, who were singled out as a separate race, the colonizers could not, for a long time, decide how to deal with such “mixed” people. After many discussions of the problem, a solution was developed whereby all mestizo children were taken away and placed in white foster families or sent to shelters. Evidently, such measures hurt the sentiments of local people, which contributed to social conflicts.

Economic Environment

Australia’s economic policy is rightly recognized as one of the world’s most influential public welfare systems. Today’s citizens enjoy the full benefits of civilization and have relatively high wages. However, those claims could not be fair in regard to Aboriginal people. Since the middle of the last century, there has been an intense struggle in the Commonwealth Federal Parliament for the economic rights of indigenous Australians on the mainland. This has resulted in several key reforms that, in addition to the rights of the original settlers described above, have provided citizens with higher monetary compensation if they have not been found guilty of criminal activity (Altman and Martin 2009). In other words, the government, by apologizing to indigenous people for decades of persecution and slavery, is sponsoring their lives.

It was not always like this: two centuries ago, Aboriginal people became a source of cheap labor. Uneducated and with a primitive view of the world as compared to visiting Europeans, the inhabitants quickly found themselves under the rule of immigrants. Because the laws of those times permitted segregation, most black people found themselves in fields and farms. The current standard of living of Aboriginal people is considerably lower than that of other Australians. Due to a lack of satisfactory education and racial prejudice, the majority of Aboriginal workers have to settle for unskilled and low-paid work. The average income of Aboriginal people is three times less than that of other Australians: $215 vs. $712 (Bandias, Fuller, and Holmes 2012). According to the authors, the unemployment rate among Aboriginal people is 14.4%, compared to 2.6% among other Australians. At the same time, Aboriginal settlements in white-dominated communities and towns are located in isolated areas, usually on the outskirts, in the most uncomfortable places.

Aboriginal workers are disadvantaged in the context of the economic situation. According to Korff (2019b), after official recognition of rights, Aboriginal people did not receive full wages from white employers. This has created a cycle of poverty in which modern Aboriginal people still live today. Aborigines who leave the village may find jobs with competence, but costs will by far exceed income, so they are likely to return to their previous way of life. However, employment may be an optimistic scenario, as the total percentage of Australian Aboriginal people employed has remained unchanged at 48 percent in seven years, between 2002 and 2009 (Korff 2019a). However, the government website of the Australian Agency indicates that the Indigenous peoples of the mainland and islands are a socially significant unit of economic policy (National Indigenous Australians Agency n.d.). Indigenous people are involved in Australia’s domestic trading industry, forming an important layer. There is a wealth of information and businesses founded by the descendants of the original settlers. Therefore, they still own a significant portion of the land and natural resources that are suitable for agricultural activities.


Australia’s economic and social growth has been strong, but it is still home to many tribes whose lifestyle and level of development have long remained unchanged. Most of these people have little use for the achievements they are used to today. However, in contrast to the legitimate attitude of the authorities towards Indigenous people in the past, contemporary Aboriginal rights have improved considerably. They are officially allowed to vote, form political organizations, and be citizens of the Australian Union since the middle of the last century. In practice, the situation is more complex as the process of adopting another culture requires considerable time and resources. Although modern Indigenous people can find employment and receive compensation, many people suffer from segregation by “civilized” citizens. This process of cultural integration may over time lead to the destruction of Australian Aborigines as a unique phenomenon.


Altman, Jon C., and David Martin. 2009. Power, Culture, Economy: Indigenous Australians and Mining. Canberra: ANU E Press.

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Bandias, Susan, Don Fuller, and Scott Holmes. 2012. “Aboriginal Economic and Human Development in the Northern Territory of Australia: To Work or Not to Work. A Clash of Non‐Indigenous Beliefs.” Economic Papers: A Journal of Applied Economics and Policy 31 (1): 50–62.

Cane, Peter. 2017. “Indigenous Australians, Social Justice and Legal Reform: Honouring Elliott Johnston.” JSTOR 41 (1): 219–223.

Korff, Jens. 2019a. “Aboriginal Economy.” Creative Spirits. Web.

—. 2019b. “Stolen Wages.” Creative Spirits. Web.

National Indigenous Australians Agency. n.d. “Economic Development.” Web.

Sanders, Will. 2016. Engaging Indigenous Economy: Debating Diverse Approaches. Canberra: ANU E Press.

Taylor, Kerry, and Pauline Guerin. 2019. Health Care and Indigenous Australians: Cultural Safety in Practice. Canberra: Macmillan International Higher Education.

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