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Representation of Australian Indigenous Sex and Gender


For a very long time, Australian Aborigines women have gone through a lot of oppression such as being denied even basic human rights. At the moment, a majority of the women’s liberation movements aim at addressing very many issues that affect women in the Aborigines society. In this case, the movements aim at dealing with gender relations that exist within the Aborigine culture. Reflecting back to the time of missionaries and explorers, the Aborigine women have always undergone one form of discrimination or another. During the 19th century, women were treated with contempt as they were sold out by explorers who harassed them sexually (Dodson 1992, Para.1).

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By that time the Australian government had taken away land that belonged to Australian Aborigines. As part of their culture, the Aborigines were strongly attached to land issues and this gave them a sense of belonging. In this case, women were exchanged for small portions of land that were acquired from white explorers who had settled in Australia. Thus women were given out for sexual purposes to white settlers who in return gave them land that they could use.

Meanwhile, the role of men was to spearhead the negotiation that involved white settlers and their wives (Dodson 1992, Para.1). The men were also on the receiving as they were in charge of the land that had been acquired from white settlers. To some extent, this trend affected the cultural practices that are still used by Australian Aborigines. For instance, there is a cultural practice in which marriages are arranged for young women and older men. This paper, therefore, aims at discussing the extent to which the mundane become sensational through a discourse of (mis)representation.

Arranged Marriages

Superficially, arranged marriage is an issue that was mainly valued among our ancestral communities. During the olden days, women from the Aborigine community had no control over any decisions that were taken by their families or elders. Even in a time of marriage, they could not have any authority over whom they wanted to be their future partners. In those days, the young women were married off to men who could be older than them and had other wives.

Basically arranged marriages did not only exist within the Aborigine community but extended across most communities. However, the introduction of civilization has really helped to erode this kind of mundane. Nowadays there are few communities that still practice the culture of arranged marriages. Apart from communities, there are some exceptional families which prefer arranging marriages with their daughters and sons.

This mainly applies to affluent families who always want their children to be married to people of their social standards. Ideally, an arranged marriage is a practice that denies people the right to make their own choices by marrying their right partners (Dodson 1992, Para.2). In the traditional setup, young women are forced to get married to older men who are usually wealthy. As such, the marriage is arranged between the young woman’s family and her future husband.

At this juncture, the young woman can not make any kind of decision that would contradict the wedding plans. As a matter of fact, she is supposed to stay away from the marriage plans and wait for the decisions that would be made by her family. According to statistics, arranged marriages are always bound to break since there is a lack of mutual agreement between the husband and wife. This especially applies to partners who were forced into arranged marriages.

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Coping in such an environment can be impossible since both partners might end up arguing or fighting each other at all times. Their children may also be affected when they see their parents fighting. Narrowing down to the Aborigines community, arranged marriage is a cultural practice that is highly valued among these indigenous people in Australia. Sadly, arranged marriages are normally between very young women and old men.

This is an issue that continues to puzzle many people and the mainstream in Australia (Huggins 1989, Para.2). Continuously, the mainstream media has criticized this cultural practice because it mainly oppresses women who are very young to get married to older men. By getting into arranged marriages, these young women can not have the chance to pursue their education and become independent. After marriages, these young usually become housewives whose role is to take care of their children and husbands.

Discourse of misrepresentation

As the Aborigines continue with their arranged marriages, many can not stop but wonder why young women are married to older men. In the media fraternity, this issue has been criticized by journalists, reporters, writers, and writers who are against such practices. According to the mainstream media, young women should not be allowed to get married to people who are old enough to be their fathers (Keating 1994, Para.3). Substantially, this mundane has become sensational through a discourse of misrepresentation. Thus, criticizing arranged marriages is a way of misrepresenting the cultural practice that is not nationally accepted in Australia.

Through the critics, the media is able to sensitize people against arranged marriages that oppress very young women. In addition to this, the Australian Aborigines are also in the spotlight for their sexual immoralities. Both men and women are portrayed as immoral since they go about having sexual practices without caring about the consequences. The Australian Aboriginal men are portrayed as sexual predators while women are portrayed as ‘whores’ (Dodson 1992, Para.3).

These sexual practices have also been criticized by the media who blame parents for influencing their children negatively. Naturally, children are bound to emulate what their parents are doing and so they may also engage themselves into sexual immorality. Clearly, this shows that the Aboriginal children are always brought up in very compromising situations that greatly affects them. Primarily, the Aboriginal women get into arranged marriages because it part of their culture. It is for this reason that the media is firmly opposing practices such as arranged marriages among the Australian Aborigines (Huntsman 1992, Para.3).

A majority of the young women who are married off to significantly older men are probably still to naïve and do not know how to demand for their rights. Some of them are aware of their own rights although they are tied up to their cultural norms. Such young women might fear coming in the open to claim for what they feel is theirs. In this case, the mainstream media has been doing a diligent work of representing young indigenous women who may never get the opportunity of claiming their right. These are young women who can go beyond the boundaries of marriage and become important people in their country (Huggins 1989, Para.3).

Media critics are important as they represent the grievances of some individuals who may not be part of the Aborigine community but are also forced into arranged marriages (Dodson 1992, Para.4). Normally the media uses television, radio, and newspapers as a way of reaching out to millions of people who are informed about very may issues. Using the mainstream media to criticize arranged marriages is very essential as it would reach out to a very big population of people. It is high time that the Australian Aborigines should realize that they are making a big mistake by forcing their children into arranged marriages.

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Primarily the cultural condemnation is meant to misrepresent the people who should do away practices such as arranged marriages (Keating 1994, Para.4). In relation to this, the Australian Aborigines should refrain from their sexual immorality that depicts a negative culture. According to the Anglo Australian demands, these are practices that need to be scraped off from Aboriginal culture. Another alternative would be to regulate the cultural practices such as sexual immoralities.

Considering the fact that these cultures were practiced by the Aboriginal ancestors, it may be difficult to get rid of them (Huntsman 1992, Para.4). Most people might not be willing to separate themselves from these cultural practiced that has existed for several years. This can be achieved by sensitizing people within the community set up and in other areas.


The Australian Aborigines should consider changing some of their cultural practices like arranged marriages and sexual immoralities. They need to realize that an arranged marriage is a way of oppressing young women who are married to older women. Young women should be allowed to get married to people they want but not people who are supposed to be their parents. The media has therefore been doing a tremendous work by criticizing these cultural practices (Keating 1994, Para.5).

Reference List

Dodson, P., (1992). Reconciliation and the high court’s decision on native title. Aboriginal Law bulletin. Vol.3, No.61, pp.6-9.

Huggins, J., (1997). Reconciliation’s positive path. A new direction for indigenous People. Vol.10. No.18, pp. 5-8.

Huntsman, C. (1992). Experiencing the United Nations. The Australian Government and Indigenous Peoples’ issues. Vol.8. No.44, pp. 2-4.

Keating, P., (1994) Australian Launch of the International Year for the World’s Indigenous People. Vol.7. No.34, pp. 5-8.

Lavery, P., (1995). The Council for Aboriginal Reconciliation. Aboriginal Law Bulletin. Vol.2. No.58, pp. 7-8. Web.

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