Comparing the Policy of Aboriginal Assimilation: Australia, Canada, and New Zealand

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The aboriginal people of Australia, Canada, and New Zealand became minorities in their own countries in the nineteenth century. The expanding British Empire had its own vision for the future of these peoples. They were to become civilized, Christian, and citizens - in a word, assimilated.
Comparing the Policy of Aboriginal Assimilation provides the first systematic and comparative treatment of the social policy of assimilation followed in Australia, Canada, and New Zealand. Australia began by denying the aboriginal presence, Canada by registering all 'status' Indians, and New Zealand by giving all Maori British citizenship.
Children received particular attention under the policy of assimilation, as there has always been a special interest in shaping the next generation. The missionaries, teachers, and social workers who carried out this work were motivated by the desire to save the unfortunate, but in the process children were required to leave their families, communities, language, and culture behind.
Comparing the Policy of Aboriginal Assimilation not only provides comprehensive and comparative data on the conduct of assimilative policy but also examines its origins and rationale. In the end, the policy is shown to be primarily an expression of the racist and colonial nature of the immigrant societies. Today, as aboriginal societies reassert themselves, there are grounds for hope that a plural social policy can be developed to accommodate the differences between aboriginal and immigrant societies.

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Aboriginal Peoples and Child Welfare Policy
The General Structure of Canadian Indian Policy
First Nations Family and Child Welfare Policy
The General Structure of Maori Policy
Maori People and Child Welfare Policy
Similarities and Differences among Australia Canada
Understanding the Policy of Aboriginal Assimilation

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About the author (1995)

Andrew Armitage is an associate professor and the director of the School of Social Work at the University of Victoria.

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