It’s Who I Am – Meanings of Aboriginality in Tasmania
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Most sources indicate that Tasmanian Aborigines are eradicated and extinct, though this is not the case. Tasmanian Aborigines are present, though they are mostly urbanized people. Issues relating to Aboriginality in Tasmania are highly sensitive and political. Tasmanian Aborigines have been subject of subjugation and eradication since the arrival of the first Europeans. Until a referendum in 1967 Aborigines were not classified as citizens of Australia. Since that referendum the emphasis on a (racist) biological definition shifted to a more social definition and in June 2005 the Tasmanian Legislative Council introduced a renewed definition of Aboriginality. This definition states that a person is a Tasmanian [Aborigine] if: he / she has Tasmanian ancestors, he / she recognizes this ancestry and the community recognizes this origin. By means of personal perspectives, stories, observations and literature I will argue that the recognition of Aboriginality can be important to people, though it doesn’t seem to have influence on the forming of one’s individual identity as one should expect, because recognition doesn’t change ones sense of being Aboriginal. In contrast to what some scientific literature argues with regard to identity and recognition, (a lack of ) recognition doesn’t necessarily mean an individual change with regard to self-esteem or self-image. It appears that struggling for recognition is more than a personal business, it’s a struggle for justice and it appears to be important for the continuum of culture. Therefore –and also because of the governmental approach with regard to Aboriginality- identity becomes subject of politics and a vicious circle is created in which Aboriginality remains a sensitive and primary topic.