A Brief History of Australia Aboriginal (indigenous) Australians were the first people on the Australian continent. They arrived in Australia from Asia more than 40,000 years ago. Although there are many Aboriginal groups, with their own languages, customs and cultures, they have some practices in common, including a close relationship with the earth and a rich tradition of oral story telling. Aboriginal Australians were traditionally hunter-gatherers. The British set up their first official camp in Eastern Australia in 1788. Soon after, British colonial officers travelled to Western Australia (WA) and began to claim Aboriginal lands as their own. Fighting broke out as Aboriginal Australians resisted European control. This resistance was violently repressed and many Aboriginal Australians were imprisoned or exploited for their labor. The first European government of Western Australia saw the Aboriginal Australians as a problem that needed to be controlled. Colonial officials introduced policies that oppressed and harmed Aboriginal communities for many years. One of these policies – the 1905 Aborigines Act – granted the government legal control of all Aboriginal people living in its territory. The colonial government appointed a ‘chief protector’ to oversee all Aboriginal affairs. In 1911, the WA Chief Protector, A.O. Neville, introduced a policy to remove all part Aboriginal children from their families. Neville was worried about the creation of a ‘third race’ – people of mixed Aboriginal and European descent. Under his policy, mixed descent Aboriginal children were forcibly removed from their homes and sent to government or church-run institutions such as missions, orphanages and reserves. Some were also adopted or housed temporarily with foster families. They were taught to forget their culture so that they could, in time, be assimilated into the white population. Many of these children never saw their birth parents again. While Aboriginal Australians were formally recognized as citizens of Australia in 1967, it was not until 2008 that the Australian government officially apologized for the policies that created the Stolen Generations. While Aboriginal Australians continue to struggle with the impacts of colonization on their society and culture, many have achieved success in different areas, and Aboriginal Australian art and music is now celebrated all over the world
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