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Black, White and Exempt : Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander lives under Exemption - Lucinda Aberdeen

Black, White and Exempt

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander lives under Exemption

By: Lucinda Aberdeen (Editor), Jennifer Jones (Editor)

Paperback | 1 January 2021

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In 1957, Ella Simon of Purfleet mission near Taree, New South Wales, applied for and was granted a certificate of exemption. Exemption gave her legal freedoms denied to other Indigenous Australians at that time: she could travel freely, open a bank account, and live and work where she wanted. In the eyes of the law she became a non-Aboriginal, but in return she could not associate with other Aboriginal people even her own family or community.

It 'stank in my nostrils' - Ella Simon 1978.

These personal and often painful histories uncovered in archives, family stories and lived experiences reveal new perspectives on exemption. Black, White and Exempt describes the resourcefulness of those who sought exemption to obtain freedom from hardship and oppressive regulation of their lives as Aboriginal Australians. It celebrates their resilience and explores how they negotiated exemption to protect their families and increase opportunities for them. The book also charts exemptees who struggled to advance Aboriginal rights, resist state control and abolish the exemption system.

Contributions by Lucinda Aberdeen, Katherine Ellinghaus, Ashlen Francisco, Jessica Horton, Karen Hughes, Jennifer Jones, Beth Marsden, John Maynard, Kella Robinson, Leonie Stevens and Judi Wickes.
Industry Reviews
"Black, white, and exempt: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander lives under exemption offers a new and important way into understanding Indigenous experiences in Australian history. Exemption policies have had a profound and often damaging impact on the lives of Indigenous Australians and Indigenous communities. The editors have brought together a collection of essays on this topic that are as diverse as they are intriguing. They range from the meaning of exemption in a segregated society to the multiple pathways that Indigenous people forged to escape the harsh legislative restrictions imposed upon them around the country throughout the twentieth century. As a collection, they show the interactions between the personal stories of individuals and the larger patterns of settler colonialism, and offer insightful and thoughtful analysis of exemption histories. Drawing upon archival records and oral histories, this edited collection reveals the full complexity of the lived experience of exemption for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, with vibrancy, sensitivity and compassion." --Victoria Haskins, Professor, Purai Global Indigenous History Centre, University of Newcastle


"An 'Exemption' from the Aboriginal Acts declared that its holders 'ceased to be Aboriginal'. Far from a step towards emancipation that it might have been, such 'Exemptions' were couched in patronising and paternalistic frameworks of oppression and segregation. In this book, black and white writers link arms to explore the genealogy of that paradoxical instrument of assimilation; the lived experiences of people who took this 'poison chalice', and of their many descendants who became disconnected from their Indigenous ancestry as a result. Like countless descendants of Jewish ancestry all over Europe, Australians are awakening to personal histories that have been suppressed due to racism." --Regina Ganter, Professor Emerita, Fellow of the Australian Academy of the Humanities

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