Assimilation In Australia and the Dawn Magazine

Assimilation in Australia and the Dawn Magazine

In the time period of the 1952-1962, the topic of assimilation was at the forefront of discussion and of policy implementations in Australia. It was a topic that focused on the Indigenous Australian people, with regards to the belief systems and cultural aspects that they followed. Assimilation was aimed at moving Indigenous Australians away from their culture, to focus their attention towards White Australian culture and expectations. This misguided aim was an endeavour to try and help Indigenous Australians become part of the community, but with a culture that was of White Australian people, rather than the traditional aspects of Aboriginal culture. In recent years this topic has become an aspect of much debate.

The Debate

Assimilation is a debate that has come to prominence again in the period of the 1990s, 2000s and 2010s. Due to the continued suffering that was being faced by Indigenous Australian people, the debate of Assimilation and how successful it was, what its aims were and how these aims were promoted. It also looks at the impacts of Assimilation on Indigenous Australians and their culture. It also centres on how successful the government really was in achieving the promotion and understanding of Assimilation and how they were promoting this idea. The magazine Dawn provided the government with a means to promote the idea of Assimilation and its positive aspects to Indigenous Australians.


The “Dawn” magazine provides an unprecedented primary resource, which allows for the development of an understanding of the concept of Assimilation and how the Government was promoting it. Published on a monthly basis, Dawn was the magazine that was being sent out to all Indigenous Australian people. It was created by the Protection Board, and was aimed at promoting Assimilation to Indigenous Australian people. It presented this information in a manner that placed a large emphasis on White Australian culture and the advantages of gaining this culture and becoming a part of it. Focuses on education, on sporting achievements, on roles outside of the home, demonstrated to Indigenous Australian people the possibilities that were available to them, if only they embraced the culture of the White Australian people. This was aimed at illustrating to Indigenous Australian people the advantages of Assimilation. Features that were also included in the magazine were letters to the editor, pen pal sections, garden and kitchen tips as well as a photo section where people could post in photos of themselves or their families.

Purpose of Dawn

The purpose of this magazine was twofold. First, it was aimed at illustrating to Indigenous Australian people the advantages of assimilating into society and embracing aspects of White Australian people’s culture. It was presented in a way that encouraged the change and supported anyone who did make the change into white Australian society. Second, it was aimed at being another form of information to provide white Australian people, so that they were able to develop an understanding of Assimilation and the impacts that it would have on Australian society. It was an opportunity to provide the Australian people with an understanding of what they could do to aid the process of Assimilation in Australia. The Government was attempting to promote assimilation to Indigenous Australian people in a manner that represented the changes that they wanted to occur and how these changes would come about without consideration of their needs and wants.

Debate surrounding assimilation

In recent times the debate that has been focused on how assimilation was promoted and the aims of this promotion. Through the magazine Dawn, students and teachers alike are able to explore the promotion of Assimilation by the NSW government in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s. This magazine clearly illustrates that the NSW government wanted to encourage Assimilation, and eradicate their culture, language and rich history. The aim was to encourage Indigenous Australians with positive stories and illustrate to them the changes that could be made to their lives if they began to embrace a white Australian culture. It was a ‘friendly’ magazine that was aimed at building community and understanding between people, and providing a form of communication for Indigenous Australian people, amongst themselves and with the protection board. When read ‘between the lines’ a different story is presented to the reader as to the way these people were being coerced into leaving what they knew in their life and embracing what was perhaps falsely considered a better culture.

Findings and Summary

The research conducted that “Dawn” was just one form of propaganda that was produced regarding the topic of Assimilation. Due to the fact that the concept of Assimilation was a relatively new concept, and increased uncertainty held by White Australian people, Assimilation propaganda was found in many forms, some aimed at White Australian people, such as pamphlets about how to welcome Aboriginal people into the White Australian society and some aimed at Aboriginal people. The “Dawn” magazine was different as it was published on a regular basis for an extended period of time. This means that the information that it presented allowed for the development of an understanding about Assimilation and what the NSW government was doing in order to encourage this understanding. It helps to provide a perspective of a topic that is still under much scrutiny as to the risks it posed to these people and their culture as it allows for the development of a focus on Assimilation and the impact it had on these people.

Some Interesting Reading

Dawn DVD Library. Dawn and New Dawn 1952-1975. A magazine for The Aboriginal people of New South Wales. Published by the Australian Government and the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Services. Using issues published from 1952-1962.

Haebich, Anna. Imagining Assimilation. Australian Historical Studies; Jan2002, Vol. 33 Issue 118, p61-70.

Haebich, Anna. Spinning the dream. Assimilation in Australia 1950-1970. First published in 2008 by Fremantle press, South Australia.

Lake, Marilyn. Citizenship as non-discriminate: Acceptance or Assimilationism? Political Logic and Emotional Investment in campaigns for Aboriginal rights in Australia, 1940 to 1970. Gender and History. Volume 13, number 3, November 2001. Pp. 566-592

Moran, Anthony. White Australia, settler nationalism and Aboriginal Assimilation. Australian Journal of politics and history. Volume 51, number 2, 2005. Pp. 168-193

Rowse, Tim. Contesting Assimilation (ED). Published in 2005  by Australian Research institute.

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