Religion, its influence and role in Australian politics, is a subject that has been studied by many authors from theological, sociological, and political backgrounds.1 Many of these analyses focus on the influence of religiosity on political and voting behaviour, generally concluding that an increase in the degree of religiosity based on Church attendance will produce a rise in political conservatism. This emphasis on the influence of religion on voting behaviour has resulted in a propensity to ignore the considerable influence Churches, as organised institutions, have on governments and on public policy outcomes.
To assist in overcoming this deficiency, by investigating Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander policy in Queensland as a study in Church-state relations, this dissertation examines the role of Churches as political pressure groups and their potential to directly influence government policy. While essentially a case study approach, its method and design, together with the wider ramifications of the particular issue, will overcome problems concerning the extent to which case studies can be generalised.
The selection of this topic provides a good example of the methods by which Churches operate in the political arena. It highlights their function as pressure groups, and indicates how governments respond to Churches in particular, and interest groups in general. Moreover, Aboriginal and Islander policy has been typified by ongoing interaction between Churches and Queensland governments for 120 years, and the issue of Aboriginal and Islander independence has produced considerable Church-state conflict in Queensland. However, the focus of this thesis is more restricted, namely the period from the late 1960s to 1984. It was a time when the Churches initiated profound alterations in their approach to Aborigines and Islanders, a total re-assessment of policy which, when applied to the political sphere, resulted in a similar, albeit belated, revision of government policy. ……………………………