Artefacts about Assimilation & Exemption
The Aborigines Progressive Association fought for full citizenship rights for Aboriginal peoples, including social security benefits. They organised, protested and addressed political leaders. They spread their message through the first Aboriginal-led publication, The Australian Abo Call.
Aboriginal activist and leader, Pearl Gibbs, fought for fair access to pensions and income support payments. She questioned proposed changes to social services legislation.
Aboriginal activist Shadrach Livingstone James petitioned the prime minister for federal citizenship rights for Aboriginal people. This included access to social security benefits and services.
A new Act brought a range of social services together under federal government responsibility. It excluded Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples from payments unless they had an exemption.
Community leaders from South Australian missions questioned legislation that said they had to move away from missions to get government payments.
Doreen Kartinyeri’s life story holds details of a number of issues that her family faced in accessing government payments, including issues with living on missions, exemptions and child removal.
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.
When DSS published a handbook about payments and eligibility for the public, it highlighted Aboriginal peoples’ exclusion from government payments.