For this to occur, the individual had to complete an application for citizenship in which their caste and the caste of their parents were stated. They had to prove disassociation from Aboriginal people and culture, provide a photo and good character references. This went before a board who made the final decision. Once approved, the Chief Protector could remove it at anytime.
The 1944 Citizenship Act of WA caused further damage to identity, loss of culture and language. My great grandmother received her citizenship papers, before my great grandfather, who was denied because “the applicant has not dissolved native association and the full rights of citizenship are not like to be conducive to the welfare of the applicant”.
A O Neville (Chief Protector of Aborigines WA) had a vision to ‘breed out the Aboriginal blood’. Assimilation was a highly intensive process necessitating constant surveillance of people's lives, judged according to white man standards. Implicit in the assimilation policy was the idea that there was nothing of value in Aboriginal culture. Whilst you notice the change in colour of my 5-generation photo, I remind you that it doesn’t matter how much milk you put in a cup of tea, it is still tea!
Five generations of Jahna's Family
What is more alarming is that these practices occurred in my mother’s lifetime. The impacts of these discriminatory laws are seen today and will be seen for many generations to come. How can people who were removed from their parents and institutionalised, know how to show love to others, when they have been oppressed, abused and disconnected from culture and identity? Before you judge someone, get to know their story!
Generational trauma is a real thing. Asking Aboriginal people to ‘just get over it.. we have said sorry, move on…’ is ignorant and appalling. As an example, do we ask those who have suffered and endured hardships during the holocaust to get over it? Saying sorry is one thing, but hand on heart has the nation (as a whole) truly embraced its first nations people, or are similar practices still at play?
Whilst today's society are not responsible for the actions of the past, we as a nation have a responsibility to acknowledge what occurred and work together in healing, acceptance and unison. This is not an Aboriginal issue. It is not just Aboriginal history. This is the history of Australia and should be owned as such. One branch alone is weak, but together many branches are strong and cannot break.
Note – I have sought permission from my Grandmother, to share these images and truth.