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Government settlements

The Aboriginals Protection and Restriction of the Sale of Opium Act 1897 gave government complete authority and control over the lives of Aboriginal people - any Aboriginal person could be declared a ward of the state.

Until the 1960s, all Aboriginal children to the age of 21 were wards of the state. Regardless of living conditions, children could be removed from their families and placed in dormitories.

People were forcibly incarcerated on reserves usually far from traditional lands and country. Sometimes whole families were moved.

On most Queensland reserves, residents were subject to harsh management.

No one could enter or leave the reserve without the superintendent's permission and he had the power to censor all mail.

People were forced to work for rations and shelter. Children were sent out to work as domestic servants or labourers. Formal schooling was minimal.

Speaking traditional languages and practising customs was often forbidden. Many people practised language, cultural obligations and ceremonies in secret, behind closed doors. However for those caught practising traditional ways, punishments were severe, including being on the receiving end of beatings or being removed to another reserve.

Employment opportunities were limited and the wages earned by Aboriginal workers were managed; and often misappropriated, with workers often only receiving "pocket money".

Poor health conditions prevailed. People continue to deal with social problems including high unemployment, alcohol abuse and crime, a direct legacy of years of mismanagement.