The notion of “assimilation” has been widely debated in recent years in the fields of both colonial history and migration studies. This article aims precisely to clarify the uses of this term “assimilation” in the specific context of New South Wales (NSW) in South-East Australia. First it briefly presents the genesis of assimilationist politics, emphasizing the fact that such a politics has long been characterised by ambiguity, both in the meaning of the idea of “assimilation” and in its date of introduction as an official policy. It then shows that if the Aboriginal Welfare Board promoted the idea, beginning in the 1940s, that the so-called “mixed-bloods” were to be classified as “Whites” rather than as “Aborigines”, this attempt at changing the system of racial classification was a failure: the policy met with resistance on both sides of the “racial divide” and suffered as a result of numerous conflicts in the politics of the Board.
By Bastien Bosa