The impact of colonisation on Aboriginal people throughout Queensland created concerns amongst settlers.  By the 1880s the need to ameliorate the condition of Aboriginal people saw settlers apply pressure on government resulting in an investigation which led to the passing of the 1897 Aboriginal Protection and Restriction of the Sale of Opium Act. The Queensland government’s protection policy enhanced the powers of authorities to define and deal with Aboriginal people.  It augmented the exploitation, segregation and incarceration of Aboriginal people throughout Queensland.  It also gave authorities powers over Aboriginal people’s movement, earnings and property. 

The Act also gave authorities powers to monitor agreements between non-Aboriginal employers and Aboriginal workers.  Authorities were fearful of miscegenation and resorted to tactics that focused specifically on controlling Aboriginal women. 

Cost cutting and inherent racism led to the failure of the protection policy and subsequently created more suffering amongst Aboriginal populations.  Aboriginal people’s resistance to the protection policy raises the question - whose protection was the policy designed for?

Dr Valerie Cooms (The University of Queensland)

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