Being Black: Aboriginal Cultures in ‘settled’ Australia

Posted in Anthologies, Anthropology, Books, Identity Development/Psychology, Media Archive, Oceania, Politics/Public Policy, Social Science on 2013-01-14 04:42Z by Steven

Being Black: Aboriginal Cultures in ‘settled’ Australia

Aboriginal Studies Press
1988; Reprinted 1991
288 pages
240×170 mm
ISBN: 9780855751852

Edited by:

Ian Keen, Visiting Fellow
School of Archaeology and Anthropology
College of Arts and Social Sciences
The Australian National University

This volume brings together results of research by anthropologists on the social life of people who used to be labelled ‘part-Aborigines’ or ‘urban Aborigines’.

Issues discussed include bases of identity, ties of family, structure of community, ways of speaking, beliefs and feelings about country, and attitudes to the past.


  • Acknowledgements
  • Foreword by Marie Reay
  • Contributors
  • 1. Ian Keen / Introduction
  • 2. Diane Barwick / Aborigines of Victoria
  • 3. Barry Morris / Dhan-gadi resistance to assimilation
  • 4. Julie Carter / Am I too black to go with you?’
  • 5. Jerry Schwab / Ambiguity, style and kinship in Adelaide Aboriginal identity
  • 6. Diana Eades / They don’t speak an Aboriginal language, or do they?
  • 7. Jeremy R. Beckett / Kinship, mobility and community in rural New South Wales
  • 8. Chris Blrdsall / All one family
  • 9. Basil Sansom / A grammar of exchange
  • 10. Gaynor Macdonald / A Wiradjuri fight story
  • 11. Marcia Langton / Medicine Square
  • 12. Patricia Baines / A litany for land
  • 13. Peter Sutton / Myth as history, history as myth
  • Index

1. Ian Keen Introduction

According to the perceptions of many people including anthropologists and other researchers, Aboriginal people of mixed descent classified in earlier decades as ‘part-Aborigines’, have no distinctive culture (eg Bell 1964,64; Barwick 1964; Beckett 1964; Rowley 1971; Hausfield 1977, 267; RM Berndt 1979, 87; and see Read 1980, 112). Fink (1957, 110), for example, has judged that the Aborigines of a New South Wales town simply possessed a common group identity as ‘black’ and an opposition to white people. In Eckermann’s view (1977), the Aboriginal people of a southeast Queensland town have been assimilated and integrated, having a mode of life typical of working class culture (see also Smith and Biddle 1972, xi), To the Berndts (1951, 275-76; Berndt 1962, 88), the Europeanisation of so small a minority has seemed inevitable.

In contrast, others (and sometimes the same authors writing at different times) have detected a distinctive, even unique, culture or way of life, with its own folkways, mores and beliefs (Calley 1956; Bell 1961, 436-37; Smith and Biddle 1972,124; Howard 1979, 98; Crick 1981). Langton (1982, 18) has remarked that ‘loss of culture’ should not be a matter of faith, but of investigation. Indeed, much of the substance of the publications cited above, as well as the results of current research, show that many features of the social life of these people are distinctive, and also display marked similarities to aspects of the cultures of Aboriginal peoples whose social lives have been changed to a lesser degree by the process of colonisation. Calley (1956, 213) wrote that the people of mixed Aboriginal descent possessed a society ‘leaning heavily on the logic and outlook on life of the indigenous traditions’ yet quite well adapted to the white community that surrounds it.

It was my familiarity with some ongoing anthropological research into the social life of Aboriginal people of southeast Queensland, New South Wales and the southwest of Western Australia, that led me to invite contributions to a volume on continuities in the culture of Aboriginal people living in what Rowley (1971, vii) called ‘settled’ Australia. The closely settled regions, by contrast with what Rowley termed colonial’ Australia, dominated by pastoral production, are those which have been most radically transformed by people of European origin. They lie mainly in the southeastern and southwestern parts of the continent, extending on the east coast north to Cairns, and north to Carnarvon on the west coast, The category should also include Darwin, the major European and Asian settlement of the north.

This volume (Being Black), brings together some of the results of a continuing interest among anthropologists in the social life of people who used to be labelled ‘part-Aborigines’ or ‘urban Aborigines’, Studies burgeoned during the post-war decades when ‘acculturation’ was a major anthropological interest, although research dwindled somewhat through the 1970s, Meanwhile research by geographers and economists has greatly extended our knowledge of the social and economic conditions of Aborigines of these regions, and the new Aboriginal history has revolutionised our perceptions of Australian history, Aborigines themselves are increasingly writing (and making films and videos) about their own lives (eg Bropho 1980; Clare 1978; Davis and Hodge 1985; McLeod 1982; Miller 1985; Mum Shirl 1981; Pepper 1980; Perkins 1975; Rosser 1978; Simon 1978)…

Read the entire Introduction here.

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Mixed-Blood Marriage in North-Western New South Wales: A Survey of the Marital Conditions of 264 Aboriginal and Mixed-Blood Women

Posted in Anthropology, Media Archive, Oceania on 2013-01-14 03:18Z by Steven

Mixed-Blood Marriage in North-Western New South Wales: A Survey of the Marital Conditions of 264 Aboriginal and Mixed-Blood Women

Volume 22, Number 2 (December 1951)
pages 116-129

Marie Reay

This survey is based on family records of over 300 aboriginal and mixed-blood women in north-western New South Wales, collected during 1945-6.

The records were obtained through one formal and at least one semi-formal interview with each woman, supplemented by informal conversations and by community gossip. In no case were interview data used without these additional checks, although records of 20 deceased women were included which were obtained from surviving members of their families.

The collection of these records was facilitated by a lively interest in genealogies being retained by the aborigines of this area.

Records of women of indeterminate ethnic background were not used (e.g. one woman whose ancestry included Cingalese and Maltese as well as aboriginal, and some whose aboriginal descent could not be accurately traced). Also, records of women of three-eighth caste (usually classified in census returns as quadroons or half-castes, according to their skin-colour), five-eighth caste (usually dubbed “half-caste”) and seven-eighth caste (usually classified as three-quarter caste or full-blood, according to their skin-colour) were not used for this survey of mixed-blood marriages, although their offspring were included in the final estimate of the composition of the next generation of mixed-bloods.

Of the 264 women whose marriages are examined here, 12 are full-blood, 26 are three-quarter caste, 129 are half-caste, 77 quadroon and 20 octaroon or lighter.

Definition of Terms

Full-blood.   Any person of unmixed aboriginal descent.

Three-quarter Caste. Any person having one white grandparent and three grandparents of unmixed aboriginal descent; i.e. any person of three-quarters aboriginal descent.

Half-caste. A term which is popularly used for any aboriginal mixed-blood but is used here to denote any person with an equal proportion of white and aboriginal ancestry. No distinction is made between a first generation half-caste and the offspring of two half-castes…

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