Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander descent who were removed from their families by the Australian Federal and State government agencies and church missions, under acts of their respective parliaments. The removals occurred in the period between approximately 1909 and 1969, although in some places children were still being taken until the 1970's.
Emergence of the child removal policy
Generally by the fifth and invariably by the sixth generation, all native characteristics of the Australian Aborigine are eradicated. The problem of our half-castes will quickly be eliminated by the complete disappearance of the black race, and the swift submergence of their progeny in the white.
Eliminate in future the full-blood and the white and one common blend will remain. Eliminate the full blood and permit the white admixture and eventually the race will become white.
The policy in practice
Nationally we can conclude with confidence that between one in three and one in ten Indigenous children were forcibly removed from their families and communities in the period from approximately 1910 until 1970. In certain regions and in certain periods the figure was undoubtedly much greater than one in ten. In that time not one family has escaped the effects of forcible removal (confirmed by representatives of the Queensland and WA Governments in evidence to the Inquiry). Most families have been affected, in one or more generations, by the forcible removal of one or more children.
I was at the post office with my Mum and Auntie [and cousin]. They put us in the police ute and said they were taking us to Broome. They put the mums in there as well. But when we'd gone [about ten miles (16 km)] they stopped, and threw the mothers out of the car. We jumped on our mothers' backs, crying, trying not to be left behind. But the policemen pulled us off and threw us back in the car. They pushed the mothers away and drove off, while our mothers were chasing the car, running and crying after us. We were screaming in the back of that car. When we got to Broome they put me and my cousin in the Broome lock-up. We were only ten years old. We were in the lock-up for two days waiting for the boat to Perth.
… the physical infrastructure of missions, government institutions and children's homes was often very poor and resources were insufficient to improve them or to keep the children adequately clothed, fed and sheltered.
Social impact on members of the Stolen Generations
I was requested to attend at the Sunshine Welfare Offices, where they formerly (sic) discharged me from State wardship. It took the Senior Welfare Officer a mere 20 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've got everything that could be reasonably expected: a good home environment, education, stuff like that, but that's all material stuff. It's all the non-material stuff that I didn't have — the lineage… You know, you've just come out of nowhere; there you are.
I guess the government didn't mean it as something bad but our mothers weren't treated as people having feelings…Who can imagine what a mother went through? But you have to learn to forgive.
I was put in a mission dormitory when I was eight, nine. I cried for two nights, then I was right with the rest of those kids. We weren't stolen; our family was there. It was a good system. Or a better system than now. At least my generation learnt to read and write properly.
Public awareness and recognition
This cannot be over-emphasized—the Australian government literally kidnapped these children from their parents as a matter of policy. White welfare officers, often supported by police, would descend on Aboriginal camps, round up all the children, separate the ones with light-coloured skin, bundle them into trucks and take them away. If their parents protested they were held at bay by police.
Australian federal parliament apology
Stances on the proposed apology
I thought I was being taken just for a few days. I can recall seeing my mother standing on the side of the road with her head in her hands, crying, and me in the black FJ Holden wondering why she was so upset. A few hundred words can't fix this all but it's an important start and it's a beginning[...] I see myself as that little girl, crying myself to sleep at night, crying and wishing I could go home to my family. Everything's gone, the loss of your culture, the loss of your family, all these things have a big impact.
- Today we honour the Indigenous peoples of this land, the oldest continuing cultures in human history.
- We reflect on their past mistreatment.
- We reflect in particular on the mistreatment of those who were Stolen Generations – this blemished chapter in our national history.
- The time has now come for the nation to turn a new page, a new page in Australia's history by righting the wrongs of the past and so moving forward with confidence to the future.
- We apologise for the laws and policies of successive Parliaments and governments that have inflicted profound grief, suffering and loss on these our fellow Australians.
- We apologise especially for the removal of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children from their families, their communities and their country.
- For the pain, suffering and hurt of these Stolen Generations, their descendants and for their families left behind, we say sorry.
- To the mothers and the fathers, the brothers and the sisters, for the breaking up of families and communities, we say sorry.
- And for the indignity and degradation thus inflicted on a proud people and a proud culture, we say sorry.
- We the Parliament of Australia respectfully request that this apology be received in the spirit in which it is offered as part of the healing of the nation.
- For the future we take heart; resolving that this new page in the history of our great continent can now be written.
- We today take this first step by acknowledging the past and laying claim to a future that embraces all Australians.
- A future where this Parliament resolves that the injustices of the past must never, never happen again.
- A future where we harness the determination of all Australians, Indigenous and non-Indigenous, to close the gap that lies between us in life expectancy, educational achievement and economic opportunity.
- A future where we embrace the possibility of new solutions to enduring problems where old approaches have failed.
- A future based on mutual respect, mutual resolve and mutual responsibility.
- A future where all Australians, whatever their origins, are truly equal partners, with equal opportunities and with an equal stake in shaping the next chapter in the history of this great country, Australia.
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Opposition leader's parliamentary reply and reaction
Reference in Pecan Summer
Legal status and compensation
Cubillo and Gunner
Mr. Trevorrow was separated from his mother in December 1957 after he was admitted to Adelaide's Children's Hospital with gastroenteritis. More than six months later, his mother wrote to the state's Aboriginal Protection Board, which had fostered him out, asking when she could have her son back. "I am writing to ask if you would let me know how Bruce is and how long before I can have him back home," she wrote in July 1958. "I have not forgot I got a baby in there". The Court was told the board lied to her, writing her son was "making good progress" and that the doctors still needed him for treatment.
Historical debates over the Stolen Generations
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