With legal mandates, thousands of Indigenous Australians children were forcibly separated from their families, taken to government and missionary institutions, and adopted into white families.
It was the Aborigines Protection Act of 1909 that sanctioned this form of ethnic cleansing between 1909 and 1969.
• The children were forbidden to speak their languages and practice their ceremonies
• They were taken miles away from their territory, and some were even taken overseas
• Parents were not told where their children were, and could not trace them
• Children were told that they were unwanted, or orphans
• When possible, family visits were discouraged or forbidden – letters were destroyed
• Many were physically, sexual, and psychologically abused for years
• The children were prevented from returning to their families.
The Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission (HREOC)
1995 – 1997
Following are some of sad testimonies at the hearing of the HREOC:
“I was requested to attend the Sunshine Welfare Offices, where they formerly discharged me from State custody. It took the Senior Welfare Officer a mere twenty minutes to come clean, and tell me everything that my heart had always wanted to know …. That I was of “Aboriginal descent”, that I had a natural mother, father, three brothers, and a sister who were alive… He placed in front of me 368 pages of my file, together with letters, photos, and birthday cards. He informed me that my surname would change back to my mother’s maiden name of Angus”
“I remember this woman saying to me, `Your mother’s dead, you’ve got no mother now. That’s why you’re here with us’. Then about two years after that my mother and my mother’s sister all came to The Bungalow but they weren’t allowed to visit us because they were black. They had to sneak around onto the hills. Each mother was picking out which they think was their children. And this other girl said, `Your mother up there’. And because they told me that she was dead, I said, `No, that’s not my mother. I haven’t got a black mother'”.
Confidential evidence 544, Northern Territory: woman removed to The Bungalow, Alice Springs, at 5 years in the 1930s; later spent time at Croker Island Mission.
- “They changed our names, they changed our religion, they changed our date of birth, they did all that. That’s why today, a lot of them don’t know who they are, where they’re from. We’ve got to watch today that brothers aren’t marrying sisters; because of the government. Children were taken from interstate, and they were just put everywhere”.
Confidential evidence 450, New South Wales.
- “I got told about my Aboriginality when I got whipped. They’d say, `You Abo, you nigger’. That was the only time I got told my Aboriginality.”
Confidential evidence 139, Victoria: removed 1967.
- “There was no food, nothing. We were all huddled up in a room … like a little puppy-dog … on the floor … Sometimes at night time we’d cry with hunger, no food … We had to scrounge in the town dump, eating old bread, smashing tomato sauce bottles, licking them. Half of the time the food we got was from the rubbish dump”.
Confidential evidence 549, Northern Territory: man removed to Kahlin Compound at 3 years in the 1930s; subsequently placed at The Bungalow.
- “These are people telling you to be Christian and they treat you less than a bloody animal. One boy his leg was that gangrene we could smell him all down the dormitories before they finally got him treated properly”.
Confidential evidence, New South Wales: man removed to Kinchela Boys’ Home in the 1960s.
- “I ran away because my foster father used to tamper with me and I’d just had enough. I went to the police but they didn’t believe me. So she [foster mother] just thought I was a wild child and she put me in one of those hostels and none of them believed me – I was the liar. So I’ve never talked about it to anyone. I don’t go about telling lies, especially big lies like that”.
- “I wanted to be a nurse, only to be told that I was nothing but an immoral black lubra, and I was only fit to work on cattle and sheep properties … I strived every year from grade 5 up until grade 8 to get that perfect 100% mark in my exams at the end of each year, which I did succeed in, only to be knocked back by saying that I wasn’t fit to do these things … Our education was really to train us to be domestics and to take orders”.
“When I was at Castledare I was badly interfered with by one of those brothers. I still know the room [in the church]. I was taken, selectively taken, and I was interfered with by one of those brothers. And if you didn’t respond in a way, then you were hit, you were hit. I never told anyone that”. Confidential evidence 679, Western Australia: man removed at birth in the 1940s.
Confidential evidence 214, Victoria: woman removed at 7 years in the 1960s.
Confidential submission 109, Queensland: woman removed at 5 years in 1948 to the dormitory on Palm Island.
Not all was ill intent. As much as the Indigenous Australians were lied to, so were some of the Australian families who took in Indigenous Australians children:
“In 1960 my wife and I applied to adopt an Aboriginal baby, after reading in the newspapers that these babies were remaining in institutionalized care…Later that year we were offered a baby who had been cared for since birth in a Church run Babies Home…We were told, and truly believed, that his mother was dead and his father unknown…”
Blind Eye: Documentary on the Stolen Generations
This is a Documentary I made while studying Certificate IV in Screen. It is about “Stolen Generations” and interview’s three surviving member’s who were stolen and separated from their family and punished for simply being classed as being labelled as “Half Caste” Aboriginal.
The Minister for Indigenous Affairs, Jenny Macklin launched the Stolen Generations’ Testimonies website on February 13 2012 with members of the Stolen Generations’ marking the 4th anniversary of the National Apology to Indigenous Australians.
Partly funded by the Australian Government, the website records their lives and experiences recognzing that the healing process is cannot be acheived overnight. As such, the Australian government will give $26.6mn over four years to establish the Healing Foundation to support community-based healing initiatives that address the traumatic legacy of colonisation, forced removals and other past government policies.
But the real healing begins, when Australian society accepts, and respects the people they have colonized
The Stolen Generations’ Testimonies website can be found at: www.stolengenerationstestimonies.com
Western Australia: Landmark Stolen Generations Test Case Begins In Perth
Ack, T.L. & Bloodworth, S. Genocide: The Australian Way. The Truth About the Stolen Generations.
Racismnoway.com The Stolen Generations: Fact Sheet
HREOC The Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission (HREOC) 1997
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