shirleene robinson on settlers and aboriginal children in colonial australia

24Aug13

Shirleene Robinson, ‘Regulating the race: Aboriginal children in private European homes in colonial Australia’, Journal of Australian Studies 37, 3 (2013).

This article focuses on the incorporation of Aboriginal children into European families on a private basis in the colonial era. While state-based missions and reserves were central sites where Aboriginal children were placed, other Aboriginal children were privately placed with European families during the colonial era. This article explores the shifting reasons for this practice. It finds that Aboriginal children who entered European families away from the control of the state came under the control of Europeans through a variety of ways. Initially, Aboriginal child removals were conducted during the course of violent frontier conflict or involved children who had been impacted by introduced European diseases. Smaller numbers of Indigenous children were taken as objects of curiosity. As the nineteenth century progressed, however, it became increasingly common for settlers to take Indigenous children for labour purposes. The article argues that the white middle-class family was positioned as a site for “civilising” children, where the moral regulation of childhood was conducted. This article adds a new dimension to colonial understandings about the role and structure of the family. It also expands understandings about Indigenous child removal in Australia’s past.



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