In 1872, the Northern Territory was carved up into pastoral leases. Tension grew between pastoralists and local aboriginal people as the land and waterholes were quickly degraded by cattle.
In 1873, the Barrow Creek Telegraph Station was set up near Alyawarra land. Katyetye aborigines attacked the station – probably as a result of the treatment of their women.
Violent reprisals followed for two months.
It is estimated that some 50 or 60 aboriginal people were killed as a result.
To avoid and escape this conflict in the 1920s some Alyawarra moved 320kms east to Lake Nash to get work as stockmen.
Following more pastoral lease subdivisions in the 1920s and 1930s, many Alyawarra people from the west sought refuge and work at Lake Nash Station.
The last patrilineal members of the Pwelany countries handed over responsibility for the area to the senior Alyawarra people.
From 1943 until 1969 Aboriginal people were able to apply for ‘exemption certificates’ to free themselves from the Protection Act and be regarded as citizens with access to social security benefits the rest of the population received as their due.
The decisions were based on subjective judgements about, for example, whether the person applying knew what money was.
The Australian Constitution comes into force. First Nation people are not acknowledged. Section 127 states: ‘In reckoning the numbers of the people of the Commonwealth, or of a State or other part of the Commonwealth, aboriginal natives shall not be counted.’
The Commonwealth Franchise Act 1902 disqualifies ‘Aboriginal natives of Australia … unless so entitled under Section 41 of the Constitution’ from voting.
The Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act 1908 declares that ‘Aboriginal natives of Australia’ are ineligible to receive benefits.
The Aboriginals Ordinance 1911 places Aborigines in the Northern Territory under the direction of a Commonwealth Protector who is given power to ‘undertake the care, custody, or control of any aboriginal or half-caste’.
The Aboriginals Ordinance 1918 widened the definition of ‘Aborigine’ and increased the powers of the Protector and the police.
The Australian Aboriginal Progressive Association is formed to campaign for citizenship rights for World War 1 Aboriginal returned servicemen.
Over ten years a series of government inquiries and reports into ‘the interests of Aborigines’ take place. J.W. Bleakley’s 1929 report recommends minimum wages for pastoral workers but is not heeded. At a 1937 Conference of Commonwealth and State Aboriginal Authorities a resolution sanctioning an assimilation policy was passed.
“…the destiny of the natives of aboriginal origin…lies in their ultimate absorption…”
Aboriginal activists William Ferguson and Jack Patten organise a ‘Day of Mourning’ for 26th Jan. They appeal for full citizenship, equality, and Aboriginal involvement in policy decisions, presenting a 10 point plan to Prime Minister Joseph Lyons.
The Child Endowment Act 1941 extends child endowment to Aborigines who are ‘not nomadic or dependent on government benefits’. This supports the Assimilation policy.
Under the Unemployment and Sickness Benefits Act 1944 benefits were only payable to Aborigines ‘if the Director General was satisfied that, having regard to his character, standard of intelligence and development, it was reasonable that he should receive benefit’.
The War Service Land Settlement Agreements Act 1945 enables returned service personnel access to land under soldier settlement schemes. Indigenous personnel are not specifically excluded but the assessment procedures are prejudiced against them receiving the land they are due.
The Commonwealth Electoral Act 1949 specifies that Aboriginal people had the right to enrol and vote at federal elections provided they were entitled to enrol for state elections (at that time, all states except Queensland and Western Australia) or had served in the Australian Defence Forces.