Politics and people

Aboriginal social structures are guided by the law of environmental conditions of land (mother). These conditions determine a mutual relationship between Aboriginal Peoples and natural resources.

Aboriginal relationships to land and water are structured around specific rights and responsibilities to cultural groups and surrounding Aboriginal groups. Aboriginal obligations of law informed societal structures about rights to conduct business including fishing, hunting, communal gathering. More significantly this law establishes rights to assert control over country and natural resources.

Impacts of Colonisation

Since European colonisation Aboriginal People have been subjected to negative political attitudes that disrespect or ignore Aboriginal People’s cultural rights. Early colonial governments introduced policies and legislation that controlled every aspect of Aboriginal Peoples’ lives. Aboriginal People and cultures were not respected or understood, and colonisers were determined to ‘civilise’ people by replacing their political and belief systems. Colonial political policy contributed to the social disruption of many Aboriginal societies across the country. 

The Act

Aboriginal People have been subjected to a myriad of colonial policies and legislations throughout colonial history. The most notorious of these was the Queensland Aboriginal Protection and Restriction of the Sale of Opium Act 1897. This act allowed authorities to dictate where Aboriginal people could live, work and who they could marry or associate with. ‘The Act’ regulated Aboriginal People from birth to death.


Aboriginal missions were established throughout Queensland by Christian groups and governments. While they claimed to offer protection from the vices of European society, missions removed people from country and cleared the way for dispossession and settlement. Missions also provided a ready source of cheap labour for the state.

Missions grouped diverse Aboriginal cultural groups into single institutions. These practices harmfully transformed culture and obligations between people and country. It began a social collapse which resulted in Aboriginal people losing connection, status, economy, land, spirituality and people.

At the same time, however, the shared experiences of segregation and assimilation brought new shared identities for Aboriginal People. These new collective Aboriginal experiences and political allegiances played a key role in the politicisation of Aboriginal groups.

Aboriginal People have learnt from historical and contemporary events and fight to be involved and influence policies that affect their cultural plight.

Queensland Museum's Find out about... is proudly supported by the Thyne Reid Foundation and the Tim Fairfax Family Foundation.

Related Links