THE 1960s ABORIGINAL FRUIT-PICKING SCHEME - A CRITICAL EVALUATION: AN INSTRUCTIVE HISTORY OF SOCIAL POLICY, SOCIAL WORK, AND CENTRAL AUSTRALIAN ABORIGINES

By Milton James

Paperback in colour

AU$55 rrp + postage

This book provides the untold history of the 1960s Aboriginal fruit-picking scheme, which involved hundreds of Aborigines living on missions and government settlements in Central Australia.

While this remarkable fruit-picking scheme was being developed, a new so called ‘progressive’ ideology was beginning to spread throughout the country, including our institutions. This new ideology would put an end to this and all other similar schemes.

Ten years earlier the last of the bush nomads had been persuaded to give up their autonomy and self-sufficiency for a life of dependency on church and state. This new ideology was beginning to view missions and temporary government training settlements as permanent habitats for these people; later to be renamed “communities” with no industry and no economy. This coincided with a rapid acceleration of dismissals from cattle stations with former employees moving off stations and into the missions and settlements. These same driving forces would also drive up settlements training allowances—euphemism for a welfare payment— all of  which would strengthen the culture of dependency and passivity, and reverse or stifle what little economic incentive these people had to leave these government institutions and build independent lives for themselves. Today, these communities have been accurately described as ‘outback welfare ghettos in never ending crisis’ where hardly a week goes by without the media reporting another disturbing event or the results of another study into the anomic behaviour of these people and places.

To consider where we go from here, we must first understand how we got into this situation. The history of this 1960s Aboriginal fruit-picking scheme will provide important missing gaps in our understanding of where it all went terribly wrong.