Indigenous Australian Studies

Torres Strait Islanders


Question: How did governments treat Torres Strait Islander people between 1900 to 1960 and what where some of the results of this treatment as compared to Aboriginal people?

Skimming through the question, one is able to identify the main issues that are to be addressed. The criterion behind this is to identify all the main clauses for the question to be adequately tackled. First, there is the mention of the governments implying the ruling power or regime. Next is the Torres Strait Islanders who are identified as a people. The next words in the sentence give a specificity of the time line that the student should focus on and it is identified as 1900 to 1960. Note that, after the mention of 1960, the conjunction ‘and’ is used to denote that the question entails two parts. The first part therefore in full reads as how did the governments treat Torres Strait Islander people between 1900 to 1960. Interpreting this first part, it is evident that it centrally entails the life of the Torres Strait Islander people in the periods from 1900 to 1960. The government it seems had a significant role in the way that it treated the Islanders in this period.

The second part has the first main issue as the results of the treatment and secondly how this treatment affected the Aboriginal, identified also as a people. This infers that both parts of the question are inter-related. The approach given to the question will first entirely stem from the Islander’s history, as they are the main player in the question. To get an adequate picture of who the Islanders are, their roots shall be revisited. To bring out clearly the role that the government played in 1900 to1960, we shall first look at life for the Islanders before this period. Then, an analysis of the treatment received during this period will follow with the impact that it had on the Aboriginal people. Through this, the entire question will be well addressed.

Annotated Bibliography

Beckett, J. (1990). Torres Strait Islanders: Custom and Colonialism. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. The article pearlers, pastors and protectors give an expansive insight into the economic and social lives of the Islanders tracing their origins from their ancestors. It also gives an account of all the subsequent contacts that the people had with the Europeans and their impacts on the economic and social welfare of the people up to the time of the colonization. This will help cover the roots and practices of the people. With the advent of trade, the Islanders were often abused by their superior masters forcing the government to intervene in some aspects of trades for the enhancement of societal welfare. Identifying this will help give a comparison of the treatment that the Islanders faced before the governmental intervention and the treatment accorded thereafter in the area of trading. With the government bent on righting the system, the improvement of the trading rules and regulations also had an impact on the Papuan and Aboriginal people neighboring the Torres Strait Islands. This will aid the research in addressing the part that concerns the treatment of the Islanders as compared to the Aboriginals. At the end of the article, colonization picks up and the government is stripped off its powers in the protection of the natives.

Bryson, I. (2002). Bringing to light: a history of ethnographic filmmaking at the Australian

Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander studies Canberra: Aboriginal Studies Publishers. The lives of the Torres Strait Islanders as well as the Aboriginals are caught in film with the objective of uncovering the lifestyles and issues that surrounded such a people in the last first quarter of the 20th century up to the third quarter. In the 1920s with the Whites having settled in the islands for trade purposes, the Islander’s past where they were dominated by the Whites is shown. The primitive society is depicted by the use of spears and the ways in which the Whites dominion was easy as they had superior weapons, guns. Next in the movies is the conflicting period between the natives and the Europeans. The Aborigines too are developed in the same manner showing them off as violent and uncivilized people. As the times progress, the Islanders together with the Aborigines are now shown in their improved situations where they have economic and social liberty over the Whites. This will be a relevant book on the research as it depicts the history of the Islanders and the sufferings they had to undergo under the Whites until a change was infused by the establishment of a self-governing body. This drove the society into its liberated and enhanced state.

Davis, R. (2004). Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander, Studies woven histories, dancing lives: Torres Strait islander identity, culture and history Acto. A.C.T, AIATSIS. The article turning secession into self-governance in the Torres Strait gives a brief history of the Islanders as a unit of peoples from the Melanesian people. The Islanders for long have been in the shadow of the Aborigines and the author shows how the governmental policies were largely in perspective of the Aborigines. This gave the Islanders a minor status in the affairs of the region pushing them into bitter rivalry with the Aborigines, as they demanded to have their own independence for the sake of identity. Some scholars have felt that this was a ruse for the Islanders to have attention to themselves while others believe it was a manifestation of the alienation from the rest of the indigenous people. More importantly, the uproar was just a reflection of the administrative factors that the Islanders were not comfortable having. With the Torres Strait Islands Treaty in the 1937, the group still was not satisfied with the amended clauses and the federal government that did not adequately address their former issues. Autonomy is reviewed in this publication as the main warring point with the administration and unprogressiveness in the social and economical setting being the other factors. This will shed light in the Islanders and Aborigines relations.        

Fairhead, L., & Hohnen, L. (2007). Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics. Torres Strait Islanders: improving their economic benefits from fishing Canberra, A.C.T.ABARE The Torres Strait Islands occupy a vast geographical area with different language groups inhabiting different sections. The idea of fishing cropped up from the need to improve the economic and social picture of the Islanders. Before the 1900s, the Islanders majored on the marine activities of pearling and trepanging for their income. No distinction that prohibited any one from harvesting shells from any area operated during the period. As this scenario went on, the Europeans arrived to find an open system where they could indulge in sea harvesting activities and there was cheap labor available too. There was a massive dilapidation of the native’s resources in the region as these large-scale marine harvesters overdid the fishing in some areas. This was detrimental to the Islanders. There was a pending necessity for the government to step in the situation. Policies that were instituted to govern the marine harvesting activities were of help. Later, with the inclusion of fishing in the area for the diversification of trade activities, they had to plant policing systems for the sake of protectionism. This publication will be of great help in the marine activities that the islanders were involved in 1900 to 1960. The impact too on the economic front will be of great help.

Nettheim G., Craig, D., & Meyers, G. D. (2002). Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies. Indigenous peoples and governance structures: a comparative analysis of land and resource management rights Canberra: Aboriginal Studies Press, Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies. The Queen of England has always stood the view that all people should be protected by the law from cases of discrimination in all aspects of lives. The authors use the reviews on the management of resources in the Torres Strait Islands that are under the jurisdiction of England. Throughout the publication, the theme of self-determination is upheld. It is supported by the political standing of the region that offers the citizens the rights to indulge in economic, communal and social activities liberally. The Islanders with the arrival of the Europeans were sidelined from the economic front with the Whites investing heavily in the area. Gaining control over the economic sector, the Whites had a voice in the labor and payment structures of the Islanders. Discrimination was apparent from the idea of unequal payment systems that often left the Islanders much exploited. The government therefore needed to take an active role in the protection of its citizens and in the enhancement of social welfare. The governing structures had to be upgraded to fit the leadership roles needed to protect the people and the industries from unfair competition. The period 1900 marked the onset of the improved governance. This information is relevant to the role of the government in the new treatment.







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