Lands of Shame: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander ‘Homelands’ in Transition

Helen Hughes
30 June 2007 | SP09
Lands of Shame: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander ‘Homelands’ in Transition

Some 90,000 of Australia’s 500,000 Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders live appallingly deprived lives in ‘homelands’ throughout remote Australia.  Although these ‘homelands’ were created with the best of intentions, they have not only failed to provide a living for Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders, but they have stultified the development of Indigenous culture so that alcoholism and violence demean and destroy many lives.

In this groundbreaking book, Professor Helen Hughes details the disgraceful state of these Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander so-called ‘homelands’, covering demographic trends, the state of security, policing and the law, land ownership, communal enterprises, the lack of education and health, derelict housing and miserable government. The book looks at Territory/State and Commonwealth policies and suggests where policies should be headed to fix these running sores.

The release of the book coincides with the 40th anniversary of the 1967 referendum that gave removed two references in the Australian Constitution that discriminated against Indigenous people The ‘homelands’ policies introduced in the 1970s, however, continued to treat Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders as being different from other Australians.

Hughes writes, ‘It is not true that various policies have been tried and have failed. Policies have always been discriminatory, treating Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders differently from other Australians.’

‘Sadly, the most damaging discrimination in Australia’s history has been the exceptionalism of the last 30 years that was intended to make up for past mistreatment. It has widened the gap between Indigenous and mainstream Australians in critical respects.’

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