Historical Persistence Of Anti-Aboriginal Beliefs
The historical persistence of attitudes and beliefs over hundreds of years is a topic that is starting to be considered in the literature as a core component of understanding economic development and the origin of current attitudes. Historical persistence of attitudes, particularly negative attitudes, have the potential to shape society for generations through formal and informal institutions. This research considers one of those attitudes: anti-Aboriginal beliefs in Australia. This paper uses a conservative dataset of salient massacres against Indigenous Australians (from 1777 to 1928) as an indicator for anti-Aboriginal beliefs, as represented by the low threshold of violence. This dataset of massacres has been geographically matched to voting in the 1967 referendum on Indigenous rights – providing direct insight into the geographical spread of attitudes towards Aboriginal Australians. After controlling for a myriad of factors, we find that the existence of a historical massacre in an area was a significant predictor of the vote for Aboriginal rights. Standard regression models and propensity score matching revealed that on average, for each massacre that occurred, the ‘no’ vote for Indigenous rights increased by a statistically significant 2 percentage points. In addition to the historical existence of massacres, electorates which had relatively higher indigenous populations, higher unemployment, and more Methodists (a religion) tended to have a higher ‘no’ vote than other areas. This research has direct practical implications for the reconciliation challenges faced in Australia, and federal discussions regarding services, funding, and Indigenous community autonomy.
Index Terms - Historical persistence, voting, political science, economic history