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Colonizers as civilizers: Aboriginal schools and the mission to 'civilize' in South Australia, 1839-1845

Scrimgeour, Anne (2007). Colonizers as civilizers: Aboriginal schools and the mission to 'civilize' in South Australia, 1839-1845. PhD Thesis, Charles Darwin University.

Document type: Thesis
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Author Scrimgeour, Anne
Title Colonizers as civilizers: Aboriginal schools and the mission to 'civilize' in South Australia, 1839-1845
Institution Charles Darwin University
Publication Date 2007
Thesis Type PhD
Subjects 2103 - Historical Studies
Abstract This thesis provides an analysis of a project to ‘civilize’ Indigenous people that was undertaken during the early years of British colonial occupation of South Australia, a project which came to focus largely on the education of Indigenous children in schools. While recent scholarship has highlighted the diversity and disparity that existed in colonial ideology, little attention has so far been paid to that aspect of the colonial enterprise referred as the ‘civilizing mission’. This study challenges preconceptions that, within a given time and place, there existed a general homogeneity of colonial ideas regarding the nature of human difference and the process by which the indigenous Other could be made ‘civilized’. Through a detailed and finely nuanced investigation of the ideology, policy, and practice of South Australia’s ‘civilizing’ project, the study demonstrates the high degree of ideological diversity and complexity that existed within a single colonial context, and the high degree of conflict that surrounded the formulation of policy designed to achieve the project’s objectives. Its narrow timeframe provides evidence that changes in approach in ‘native policy’ and Indigenous education took place within a much shorter period of time than is generally assumed. It argues that the contested nature of the civilizing mission, and the changes that took place in Aboriginal education during the timeframe of the study, were a result not only of conflicting understandings of the notion of ‘civilization’, but of attempts by individual colonizers to use the civilizing mission to serve their own particular agendas.

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