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Power and Dysfunction: The New South Wales Board for the Protection of Aborigines 1883–1940

2022 - Shortlisted


Judges' Comments 

This is a fine-grained study of the New South Wales Board for the Protection of Aborigines, which, from 1883, had the task of assisting and supporting Aboriginal people, by then devastated from the effects of violent and almost complete dispossession. Commencing with limited government interest or authority, by the turn of the century the Board gained significant legislative powers that secured it enormous power and reach into the lives of Aboriginal people with devastating consequences. It gained power to control movement, wages, remove children, segregate and expel individuals and families, and quash any uprising.   

Power and Dysfunction reveals how the institution came to exercise so much power and influence and, paradoxically, how it failed to achieve even its own ill-conceived Aboriginal policy. The book draws on primary sources, including Board and government reports, along with the rich body of work detailing Aboriginal experiences and perspectives. This work is a vital resource for teachers of Australian settler and political history and those concerned with understanding the history and persistence of Aboriginal policy dysfunction.