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Between the years 1909 and 1969 children were taken from their mothers/families at all times of day. Not just any child was taken, only children of Aboriginal status or children with a little bit of Aboriginal status, half caste. “It is estimated that between 50,000 to 100,000 Indigenous children were taken from their families…” (Lecture). The government had decided that the mothers/families that were Indigenous Aborigines were not fit for raising a family. The government wanted to breed out the Aboriginal people. From that they wanted to breed out all the Aboriginal people. These Aboriginal children were known as the Stolen Generation.
The Stolen Generation was where tens of thousands of children were taken throughout the day and put into orphanages and other homes. They were put to work and the government attempted to eliminate the Aboriginal people. They wanted to wipe out the Aboriginal race which wold only leave Whites. “Under the White Australia and assimilation policies Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who were ‘not full blood’ were encouraged to become assimilated into the broader society so that eventually there would be no more Indigenous people left. At the time Indigenous people were seen as the inferior race” (Stolen Generations…). Even though the Stolen Generation lasted many decades it consisted of four main situations: the removal of the children, the bringing them home along with the impact it had on their lives, and the national apology.
Throughout the Stolen Generation the removal of the Aboriginal children happened every night. Mothers and their families were horrified at every moment knowing that their children might be taken away forever. Some mothers hide their children when they heard the government was coming into town. Children were being taken away at all hours. The government would raid a house to take away their children in the middle of the night. Children of all ages were taken. After the children were taken away from their families the government took them to different orphanages. One wonders how a government could do such a thing. “The removal policy was managed by the Aborginies Protection Board (APB). The APB was a government board established in 1909 with the power to remove children without parental consent and without a court order.
Children could be put into an institution or mission dormitory, fostered or adopted” (Stolen Generation). Usually when the children were put into a children’s home when they were young would get adopted or fostered soon after. Some children were bought for work and became maids for the families; however, they got paid very little and never were commended for their hard work. According to the Australian government website the children were expected to work at a very young age, they were only entitled to retain a small proportion of their meagre earnings as pocket money (Sorry Day…). Aunty Gloria Smith was taken by the police when she was twelve years old. She was immediately sent to Sydney to work. She claims she will never forget the names of who she worked for, Mrs. and Mr. Slander and their two daughters. She was a maid for the house, but they never appreciated the work she would do for them. Aunty viewed it as slavery. She did not get paid for her work.
Her older sister came to help her escape and she never went back, even though the police tried to take her back. Aunty Gloria is just one of many cases. Each and every individual that had been part of the Stolen Generation has a different story, no two are alike. During this time the boys and girls had different roles. Boys were sent to places like the Kinchela Aboriginal Boys Home and girls were sent to places like the Cootamundra Home. In the boy’s home the boys were often beat and put into cages like animals. One story of an Kinchela Inmate was “The bashing that I copped from the from the manager. He was a so-called manager who was supposed to manage the place and to protect us” (Lecture). In the girls home it was a “…Domestic Training Home for Aboriginal girls. It was maintained by the Aborigines Welfare Board until 1968. The girls were not allowed to remain in any contact with their families, and were later sent to work as domestic servants” (Lecture). Children were taken away from their families and most never knew who their parents were. Most forgot/never knew about their culture.
In the 1990’s there was an national inquiry into removing the Aboriginal children. This was the start to the Bringing Them Home Report.
The report outlined the devastating impact the child removal policies had on the children and their families. It found that many of the institutions and homes in which the children were places were very cruel and sexual and physical abuse of the children was common. It found that many of the people who managed the removals, including both the government and churches, abused their power and breached their supposed obligation as protectors and ‘carers’…. The report found that the practice of forced removal was highly traumatic not only for the children but also for their families. The policy broke important cultural, spiritual and family ties which crippled not only individuals, but whole families and even whole communities.
The report found that members of the Stolen Generations suffered higher rates of sexual abuse, maltreatment, dislocations of family life, poverty and hardship than other Aboriginal people…. The aim of the policy was to ‘breed out’ the Aboriginal race. In international law practices designed to destroy an entire race of people are known as genocide, and are forbidden under the 1948 Convention of Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. While many records have been lost, it has been estimated that between 1 in 10 and 3 in 10 Aboriginal children were forcibly removed between 1910 and 1970 (Stolen Generations…). The report provided heaps of information which exploited that the government and home owners abused and mistreated these children. This report was a good source to showing that they truly have done wrong to these people. They are people to, just because they are a different race does not mean you can try to breed them out.
With the help of this report, children were realized of their duties. Most were not able to go back to their families. A few reasons for this is that they did not know their culture and/or history of where they have came from and it would have been hard going back. Everything that they have been created life long negative consequences. According to Aunt Gloria Smith lots of Aboriginals have the misfortune to not have been able to know their families and that she was one of the few lucky ones that knew her mother and father were. The negative impacts these people had on changed them forever.
After the Bringing Them Home Report came out many people asked for an official apology from the government. This is the least the government could do after admitting to mistreating the Indigenous people for many decades. Aboriginals also asked for a financial compensation along with the national apology. “…Conservative Prime Minister John Howard and his government resolutely refused to make a national apology. They denied that there had ever been a Stolen Generation, arguing that the children had been rescued from physical and moral danger and that their treatment was humane by standards of the times, and rejected any notion of generational responsibility for practices sanctioned by previous governments.
There would be no compensation payments” (Haebich) Even though the Prime Minister John Howard did not want to make the apology many Australians supported the national apology. However, “…the prime minister passed a ‘Statement of Regret and Motion of Reconciliation’ in parliament” instead of doing the apology (Stolen Generations…). After the Bringing Them Home Report and the denied national apology, national Sorry Day was put into place on 26 May 1998. This day brought huge celebrations and festivities. One thing that was Sorry Books. Sorry Books were there for people to write about their suffering and what had happened to them during the Stolen Generations. This day became an annual event that has marches every year with many speakers. Although, “ in 2005 the National Sorry Day Committee renamed Sorry Day as a National Day of Healing for all Australians:‘The Day will focus on the healing needed throughout Australian society if we are to achieve reconciliation” (Sorry Day…).
Ten years later after the former Prime Minister denied to apologize, a new government was elected. The new Prime Minister Kevin Rudd promised to make an national apology to the Indigenous people of the Stolen Generation. “At the first parliament, on 13 February 2008 the new Prime Minister Kevin Rudd issued a national apology to the Stolen Generations on behalf of the Australian Government” (Lecture). In part of Rudd’s apology he states “ we apologize especially for the removal of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children…For the pain, suffering and of these Stolen generations, their descendants and for their families left behind, we say sorry” (Lecture). When the apology took place it allowed for Australians to heal its past wounds.
The Stolen Generation has impacted every person in Australia, whether they were Indigenous or WhiteAustralians. These years a highly controversial era in Australia’s past. The Indigenous people had many hard times throughout
the past decades They had been mistreated for many years that the negative impacts that go along with it will last a lifetime. Aboriginal people have gone through a lot; however, some of the racism is still going on. They are still being mistreated by select few individuals that still can not fathom how todays society is giving remorse to these people, not hatred. They have suffered enough throughout the Stolen Generation they do not need any more. With learning about Australia’s past and what had happened to the Stolen Generation makes my heart drop.
The things they had to go through and the way Aboriginals were treated for over a hundred years makes me cringe. How could people do this to others? However, this same thing happened back in America. African Americans were treated as slaves, sold like cattle, and beat for no reason just like Indigenous people were in Australia. Researching about the Stolen Generation was not only a great way to learn about Australia’s history, but also to learn about the Indigenous people. I feel as if the apology was not enough, even though the government can not rewind what was done. The apology and admitting they have done wrong is a step in the right direction.
Haebich, A 2011, ‘FORGETTING INDIGENOUS HISTORIES: CASES FROM THE HISTORY OF AUSTRALIA’S STOLEN GENERATIONS’, Journal Of Social History, 44, 4, pp. 1033-1046, Academic Search Complete, EBSCOhost, viewed 3 May 2013. References
Lecture Notes: Week 7-Stolen Generation
Sorry Day and the Stolen Generations – australia.gov.au. 2013. Sorry Day and the Stolen Generations – australia.gov.au. [ONLINE] Available at: http://australia.gov.au/about-australia/australian-story/sorry-day-stolen-generations. [Accessed 10 May 2013].
Stolen Generations Fact Sheet. 2013. » Stolen Generations Fact Sheet. [ONLINE] Available at: http://reconciliaction.org.au/nsw/education-kit/stolen-generations/. [Accessed 10 May 2013].