What are the Stolen Generations?
The Stolen Generations are a group of Australian Aboriginals who were taken from their families according to Australian government policy between 1910 and 1970. While it is unclear exactly how many children were taken from their homes, some estimate that the numbers could be between 1/3 and 1/10 of all Indigenous Australian children born during that time.
Most often, the children who were taken had some non-indigenous ancestry and were five years old or younger. They were taken from their homes without parental consent and forced into orphanages, foster homes or labour camps, where they were trained as domestic servants or farm hands. No matter where they were, though, these children were always placed under the supervision of non-indigenous Australians.
Why were they taken?
According to federal policy, the Stolen Generations were taken from their homes and communities ‘for their own good’. White Australians believed that it would be beneficial for Aboriginal children with some ‘white blood’ to grow up in white society. The goal was to eventually assimilate all Aboriginal children into white society.
What were the consequences?
While some children did find happiness in their new living situations, most did not. According to the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission’s 1995 report on the Stolen Generations, Bringing Them Home, children who were taken from their homes suffered many consequences, including:
- little or no education
- harsh living conditions
- possible sexual or physical abuse
- loss of indigenous culture, language and identity.
The removal of indigenous children from their communities harmed not only the children, but on a larger scale, the communities themselves. As a result of this Australian policy, languages and cultural practices of many indigenous communities were lost.
What’s being done now?
The HREOC report suggested over 54 actions to take concerning the Stolen Generations, which generally fall into five categories:
- acknowledgement and apology from the federal and state or territory governments
- guarantees against repetition
- restitution (meaning counselling and language, culture and history centres)
- rehabilitation (meaning mental health programs and parenting services)
- monetary compensation.
The former federal government contributed over $100 million in aid in Aboriginal development over the past 10 years. However, few of the actions suggested in the HREOC report were acted upon. The federal government issued no apology and New South Wales was the only state government to do so.
Following the 2007 election, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd announced that a ‘real, meaningful and substantive’ apology would be made to the Stolen Generations on Wednesday, 13 February 2007.
The Federal Indigenous Affairs Minister, Jenny Macklin, began meeting with Indigenous groups such as the National Sorry Day Committee and the Stolen Generations Alliance, in January 2008, to discuss what the apology should include.
Indigenous groups and Stolen Generation Victorian chairwoman Lyn Austin are also asking for monetary compensation to be included in the apology. Macklin says compensation will not be paid by the federal government. Instead, they will be investing in health and education for Aboriginal people as well as counselling and services to help individuals find relatives. ‘The intention is to build this bridge of respect between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australia’, said Mr Rudd.
This page was updated by ActNow members Rita and Adrienne
How do I know this?
Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission, 'Bringing Them Home Education Module'
European Network for Indigenous Australian Rights: The Stolen Generations http://www.eniar.org/stolen.html
Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission 2005, 'Face the Facts: Some Questions and Answers about Refugees, Migrants and Indigenous Peoples in Australia'
SBS World News Australia online, ‘Rudd to apologise to stolen Generations’, 26 Nov 2007 http://news.sbs.com.au/worldnewsaustralia/
ABC news online, ‘Stolen generations delegation to lobby govt’, 9 Jan 2008 http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2008/01/09/2135217.htm
SBS Wold News Australia online, ‘Govt rules out stolen generation compo’, 7 Jan 2008 http://news.sbs.com.au/worldnewsaustralia/
SBS Wold News Australia online, ‘Government begins work on sorry’, 11 Dec 2007 http://news.sbs.com.au/worldnewsaustralia/