Artefacts about 1950s
Cabinet discussed changing discriminatory social services law several times during the 1950s. While these conversations eventually led to change, there was opposition at every step.
As an Elder, Ruth Hegarty fought for justice on behalf of Aboriginal people in Queensland who had been denied access to government payments and fair wages. Her activism was spurred on by her own experiences.
When DSS published a handbook about payments and eligibility for the public, it highlighted Aboriginal peoples’ exclusion from government payments.
In an excerpt in a book about the Aboriginal-Australian Fellowship, an Aboriginal veteran recalled the difficult fight for Aboriginal rights in New South Wales.
In the late 1950s, many Queensland Government officials wrote to the federal government arguing for Torres Strait Islander men living on the outer islands to receive Unemployment Benefit.
Joe McGinness campaigned for Aboriginal civil rights throughout his life. His autobiography shows the importance of Aboriginal voices in fighting for equal access to government payments, citizenship and equal wages.
The Social Services Act of 1947 was amended in 1959 and some of the discriminatory passages were removed. However, it continued to exclude some Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people from social services.
Even when the government agreed to pay Aboriginal leprosy patients Invalid Pension, the payments were delayed by discussions about how much of the payment should go to patients and how much should be managed on their behalf.