A Study of Indigenous Australians within the Rubrics of Modernity and Tradition

Ayatalla Lewih


In order to cohesively understand Australian culture, the implications and disturbances of modernity need to be acknowledged. The unjust treatment of Aborigines is widely recognised amongst the Australian population, yet few understand the repercussions that modernity has caused to the preservation of this distinct culture. This paper examines whether an “Indigenous Modernity” can exist in our present day. In doing this, the exhibition held at the Museum of Sydney; “From Little Things Big Things Grow: Fighting for Indigenous Rights”, was used as a stepping stone for exploring the manner in which Aborigines became second-classed in their country. This paper details the perspectives of both the Europeans and the Aborigines to enable the reader to understand the mentality of those destructing and those preserving. These conflicting perspectives developed the war between the “Ancients” and the “Moderns”, whereby the Aborigines were defeated by the Europeans. By setting on a quest to examine Australia”s colonial history, it becomes evident that modernity has marginalised and excluded the Aboriginal population due to their association with the past. Aborigines were categorised as “The Others” who were unable to embrace modernity due to the lack of Western ideologies within their societies. This association with “otherness” has not faded away and has caused the modern day stereotype of the authentic Aborigine. The “real” Aborigine is perceived to be the darker, remote Aborigine who lives isolated from civilisation in a state of wilderness. This misrepresentation has been influential in denying an “Indigenous Modernity” in our modern society, whilst also contributing to the racial discrimination in our population. This is quite different to the Aborigines” perspective on their ability to modernise. Their adoption of Christianity and urbanised lifestyle changes are indicative of this. Notably, Aborigines have used their tradition in order to understand and connect with these modern concepts. While the Europeans defined themselves by rejecting tradition, Aborigines have reinformed their culture in order to associate with the modern world.  

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