Half-caste - Australia

Australia

In Australia, the term half-caste was widely used in the 19th- and early-20th-century British commonwealth laws to refer to the offspring of White colonists and the Aboriginal natives of the continent. For example, the Aborigines Protection Act of 1886 mentioned half-castes habitually associating with or living with an Aboriginal; while the Aborigines Amendments between 1934 to 1937 refers to it in various terms, including as a person with less than quadroon blood. Later literature, such as by Tindale, refers to it in terms of half, quadroon, octoroon and other hybrids.

The term half-caste was not merely a term of legal convenience. It became a term of common cultural discourse and appeared even in religious records. For example, John Harper notes from records of Woolmington Christian mission that half-castes and anyone with any aborigine connection were considered 'degraded as to divine things, almost on a level with a brute, in a state of moral unfitness for heaven'.

The term was immortalized in the Half-Caste Act, whereby the Australian government could seize such children and forcibly remove them from their parents in order to, in theory, provide them with better homes than those afforded typical Aborigines where they can grow up to work as domestic servants, and for social engineering. Other British commonwealth Acts on half-castes and Aborigines enacted between 1909 and 1943, were also in theory called Welfare Acts, in statutes passed deprived these people of basic civil, political and economic rights and made it illegal to enter public places such as pubs, government institutions, marry or meet relatives.

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