Stolen Generation The forced removal of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander (ATSI) children from their families was an Official Government policy in the early 1900’s. By the late 1980’s, there were more than 100 000 of ATSI descent children who had been taken away from their families and lost links with their language, culture and traditions; they are known as Stolen Generation. Between 1995 – 1997 The Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission (HREOC) provided recommendations to reunite Indigenous families affected by the Stolen Generation.
However these recommendations have not been enforced which has resulted in failure to reconcile. The Stolen Generation did not move on to become labourers or servants. In general, the education they received was very poor and The Government did not recognise Indigenous parents as having any rights with regards to their children. In 1995 HREOC began a national inquiry into the separation of Aboriginal children from their families; the report was called Bringing Them Home. As a result of this report Australia had to come to terms with the breech of the United Nations (UN) Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.
HREOC has made suggestions to help indigenous people reunite with their families and regain their cultural identities (Marten, 2002, pp229). It is not possible to regain, what had been lost by indigenous people as result of the forced removal of their children by Governments, churches and welfare bodies. Removing children from their families was official government policy in Australia until 1969. However, the practice had begun in the earliest days of European settlement, when children were used as guides, servants and farm labour REFRENCE). The first ‘native institution’ at Parramatta in 1814 was set up to ‘civilise’ Aboriginal children.
The Aborigines Protection Board was established and oversaw the mass dislocation of Aboriginal people from their traditional lands onto reserves and stations. Aboriginal girls in particular were sent to homes established by the Board to be trained for domestic service. In 1909 the Aborigines Protection Act gave the Aborigines Protection Board legal sanction to take Aboriginal children from their families. In 1915, an amendment to the Act gave the Board power to remove any child without parental consent and without a court order (HREOC, 2010, www).
The information is provided by HREOC which is a Government organisation that published the ‘Bringing them Home’ report. The purpose of this report is to trace the Australian Governments past laws, practices and policies; the need for any changes in current laws, practices and policies; determining the justification for compensation for persons or communities affected by such separations; and examining the current laws, practices and policies that effect indigenous people (HREOC, 22 August 2010, www).
The Bringing them Home report was published in 1995 in response to the increasing pressure on Australian Government in relation to the treatment of indigenous Australians. It is not known precisely how many Aboriginal children were taken away between 1909 and 1969, when the Aborigines Welfare Board (formerly the Aborigines Protection Board) was abolished. Poor record keeping, the loss of records and changes to departmental structures have made it almost impossible to trace many connections.
Almost every Aboriginal family has been affected in some way by the policies of child removal. Taking children from their families was one of the most devastating practices since white settlement and has profound repercussions for all Aboriginal people today. In 1995, the Commonwealth Attorney General established a National Inquiry into the Separation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children from their Families, to be conducted by the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission (HREOC).
The Inquiry report, Bringing them home, was tabled in the Commonwealth Parliament on 26 May 1997, the day before the opening of the National Reconciliation Convention. Bringing them home made 54 recommendations. Former High Court Judge, Sir Ronald Wilson, chaired the HREOC Inquiry. After Bringing Them Home was released, he told an audience in Canberra that: Children were removed because the Aboriginal race was seen as an embarrassment to white Australia.
The aim was to strip the children of their Aboriginality, and accustom them to live in a white Australia. The tragedy was compounded when the children, as they grew up, encountered the racism which shaped the policy, and found themselves rejected by the very society for which they were being prepared (UTS and UNSW Faculty of law, 21 August, 2010, www) The Inquiry found that between one in three and one in ten Indigenous children were removed from their families under past government policies, but could not be more precise due to the poor state of records.