Cultural exclusion and interaction
: an historical study of the Aboriginal, Anglo-Australian, Chinese and Greek groups in Darwin, Northern Territory of Australia, 1880-1980

  • Christine Robyn Karlsen

    Student thesis: Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) - CDU


    This study aimed to examine four different cultural groups in Darwin, Australia, to discover whether the group's identity and self image remained consistent over time or whether this adapted to the changing circumstances. The study covered 100 years but focused on specific events such as the federation of Australia, the economic downturn of the 1920s, the bombing of Darwin during World War II, Cyclone Tracy and finally the achievement of self government in the Northern Territory. The cultural groups included the Aboriginal people known as the Larrakia, but this group gradually changed to include people from other tribes and people of mixed descent. Sometimes other Aboriginal people were also considered because of the policies of the Commonwealth government which lumped all 'Aboriginal'people into this general category but then divided it into'traditional' and 'Aborigines of mixed descent'. Another group was that of the Chinese which included people from mainland China, Hong Kong and Singapore as well as the later arrival of those from East Timor. The Greeks formed another group of people who firstly came from Kastellorizo, but later, others came from Kalymnos and Cyprus. The last group considered was the Anglo-Australian. It included people who firstly came from Britain, but later from different parts of Australia but who shared cultural roots from England. The study found that on the whole the Chinese and the Greek groups tried to remain as stable as possible but did have to adapt to the changing circumstances. The Aboriginal group was first separated by the policies of the Anglo-Australians but towards the end of the period there were instances where Aborigines were trying to join together again and overcome differences within the group.The Anglo-Australian group was split by class between the administration and the workers and this was gradually reduced but another division appeared between those whose loyalties were in Darwin and those whose loyalties were in Canberra.  

    The study made comparisons between the manner in which the groups interacted, whether consistently or changing according to the perceptions of the culture of the group. It was found that the Aboriginal group was most controlled and restricted and the only one where an internal division was created by the policies of the Anglo-Australians. It was concluded that this was due to the conflict over land which both the Aborigines and the Anglo-Australians claimed was legitimately theirs. The Chinese were also restricted because of their race and culture but these restrictions gradually eased. The Greeks were restricted during the 1920s but not since then. Both the Chinese and the Greek groups have been able to partake in the commercial development of the Northern Territory and have gained considerable wealth and power from that base. The Aboriginal people have been denied access to such development and have not enjoyed the same measure of commercial success and financial independence. The Anglo-Australian group remained the most transient and has mostly been involved in administration. 

    The study showed that even though it is not common to make comparisons between cultures, when one does, it brings about greater understanding of the manner in which the groups responded and were acted upon and the interaction between cultures. The study found that through this comparison it became evident that the Chinese and the Greek groups could be called 'ethnic groups' but that the Aboriginal group was a'first nation' group trying to hold onto its homeland white the Anglo-Australian group was a new nation' group trying to claim that same land as its own. 
    Date of Award1996
    Original languageEnglish
    SupervisorMichael Christie (Supervisor)

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