Some modern western nations include within their borders distinct indigenous cultural groups, each established over many centuries and maintained in accordance with traditional customs, that have survived relatively intact into the 21st century. This is the case, for example, with indigenous people in Australia, New Zealand, Africa, and North and South America. These groups are each, to a varying degree, coherent entities founded on their own distinct rules and traditions governing relations within and between families and applying to the functioning of their particular social system as a whole. They co-exist alongside and in an uneasy relationship with the prevailing western culture; sharing time, territory and the necessities of life but often very little in the way of values, knowledge and social infrastructure.
The differences between indigenous and non-indigenous cultures are readily apparent in the respective sets of laws and customs governing the family. In particular the practice of adoption, which offers a fragmentary but revealing insight into the life of any culture, indicates the nature of differences in the value systems that now separate modern western society from its many and varied indigenous counterparts. This can be seen in the legal functions of adoption which in indigenous cultures are not quite the same as those of modern western societies. However, the latter—having developed their present relatively recent, sophisticated, highly regulated and expensive models of adoption—are steadily assuming some of the characteristics of customary adoption. There is every reason to believe that this trend towards convergence will continue.
KeywordsIndigenous People Aboriginal People Torres Strait Islander Aboriginal Child Adoptive Parent
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