Changing place for Aboriginal People in WA

Before British colonisation and the commencement of full scale settlement in Western Australia in 1829, Aboriginal people lived for tens of thousands years within the environment, managing land and water resources in defined geographic and varying climatic regions. Archaeological records reveal that Aboriginal people have inhabited Western Australia for at least 45,000 years.

European settlement through the various regions of Western Australia brought great disruption to the traditional ways of life of Aboriginal people. Settlers were often embroiled in violent conflict with Aboriginal people as they encountered groups that held out against official European control. Traditional Aboriginal society fractured in many areas. As a result various royal commission reports tabled in Western Australia’s Parliament documented the conditions and treatment of its Aboriginal inhabitants and recommended government policies for the detailed management of the lives of Aboriginal people, including the removal of children from their families.

In the 20th century a long journey commenced for Aboriginal people to become participants in the political processes of the State. From a position of having basically no civic rights, Aboriginal people campaigned for recognition of their human rights as citizens of Western Australia and Australia. It was not until the 1960s that Aboriginal people were able to vote like everyone else in State elections, and Aboriginal communities began their fight for rights to their land. Since 1980, Aboriginal people have been successfully elected to the Western Australian Parliament, and in 1992 the Mabo decision by the High Court of Australia recognised for the first time that in some circumstances Aboriginal Australians continue to hold native title to land and that they are uniquely connected to it.