In 1943, the Aborigines Welfare Board* allowed Aboriginal people to apply for a ‘Certificate of Exemption’. This certificate gave Aboriginal people access to the same previously denied benefits as non-Aboriginal Australians, such as pensions, public education, and housing. People had to always carry the certificate and it could be withdrawn any time. It was also a way for governments to surveillance and monitor Aboriginal people.
In exchange for the certificate, people were forced to renounce their culture, language, and family. Many were ostracised by their family for rejecting their culture. Many also lost contact with their family because they were not allowed to live with them on the reserves and even had to apply for permission to visit them. The intergenerational trauma caused by this loss of family history, kinship ties and cultural identity has had devastating effects on many Aboriginal people today.
We have used historical terms; however, ‘Aborigine’* is no longer used or accepted when referring to Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander peoples.
Certificate of Exemption - Acknowledgement to NSW State Archives as the source: Aborigines Welfare Board*; Exemption Certificate (blank), nd [8/3275.2] - The State of New South Wales is the copyright holder for this item.