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The Stolen Generation

By order of the Aborigines Protection Board many aboriginal children were taken from their families and put into board controlled homes, religious and state homes. They have since been called the stolen generation. In NSW, Aborigines Protection Board records show that 1600 Aborigine children were placed in Board controlled homes between 1916 and 1938[1]. From these statistics we know that this practice was common and the white Australians tried to justify it with all sorts of arguments such as it was protection for the children[2].

The removal of Aboriginal children largely ended in 1970. Legislation allowing white people to remove Aboriginal children from their families was passed in 1915 in NSW; this was the Aborigines Protection Amending Act. This Legislation allowed the manager of a police station or police officers to order the removal of a child, with no correspondence being entered into if the Board considered it to be in the childs best interest[3]. The Aborigines Protection Amendment Act in 1940 replaced the Aborigines Protection Board with the Aborigines Welfare Board.

This now made it that any Aboriginal who was considered by the Board to be neglected or uncontrollable became a ward of the Board. This act was somewhat better for the Aborigines because it made it become necessary to have a court hearing before a magistrate before a child could be declared a ward. But the Aborigines Protection Amendment Act (in 1940) also had a down side for the Aboriginals. This was that the State had increased control over Aboriginals in all aspects of life.

They did this by giving the Aborigines Welfare Board the power to be able to make homes for the education and training of wards and to try to punish any Aboriginal who left their government home. The Aborigines Welfare Board could also stop parents from visiting their children in these homes[4]. The white people had a lot of control over the Aborigines and often mistreated them. There were no laws forbidding the white Australians removing children until later in 1967. The Aboriginals had their children removed from them by many different ways.

Some Aboriginals were taken by force; the white Australians came and just took the children from the mothers arms[5]. They were also taken when the parents of the children were away from the children: The circumstances of my being taken, as I recollect, were that I went off to school in the morning and I was sitting in the classroom and there was only one room where all the children were assembled and there was a knock at the door, which the schoolmaster answered. After a conversation he had with somebody at the door, he came to get me.

He took me by the hand and took me to the door. I was physically grabbed by a male person at the door, I was taken to a motor bike and held by the officer and driven to the airstrip and flown off the Island. I was taken from Cape Barren in October 1959 [aged 12] [6]. The Aboriginal mothers were also often tricked into giving up their children: Upon my recovery, the Social Welfare Department of the Royal Children’s Hospital persuaded my Mother to board me into St Gabriel’s Babies’ Home in Balwyn … st until Mum regained her health. If only Mum could’ve known the secret, deceitful agenda of the State welfare system that was about to be put into motion – 18 years of forced separation between a loving mother and her son[7]. How did this situation ever develop? Some possible suggestions include: A general feeling of white superiority, a lack of understanding of the Aboriginal way of life, Christian missionary influence, or perhaps a genuine interest in the welfare of Aboriginal children yet poorly administrated outcomes.

The white Australian feeling at the time was that they were superior to the Aboriginal people this is demonstrated in government polices such as the White Australia Policy which gave a high preference to white immigrants. Other indications of this are that the Aboriginals were not counted in the national census until 1967[8] and that they were not given federal voting rights until around about 1960 to 1970 in most states[9]. The white Australians didnt understand the Aboriginal way of life. What might appear to white Australians as neglect or abuse could have just been the Aboriginal way of life.

The white Australians thought that their way of life was the only way and that the Aboriginals should have to live that way. The white Australians thought that they were doing the right thing by taking the Aboriginals out of what the white Australians saw as a pagan environment and teaching them their religion. They thought this was the right thing because they thought that their religion is the right one and the Aboriginals one was misguided and wrong. This relates back to the previous point about the white Australians no understanding the Aboriginals[10].

It is possible that the white Australians had a genuine interest in the welfare of Aboriginal children. Some of the Aboriginal children no doubt were abused and neglected by their parents (by our standards), as were many white children[11]. They could have had this genuine interest, but they didnt understand the Aboriginal way of life and therefore couldnt offer any useful help, but instead pushed their way of life on the Aboriginals. The perceived neglect could have seemed very high by white Australians standards.

What was the impact from the removal of children on the Aboriginal families? Some possible impacts are: The child would not grow up and bond with his family, the family wouldnt bond with the child, the child wouldnt know his own culture, a loss of traditional ways, a feeling of not belonging to either the white Australians or the Aboriginals, and a loss of traditional ways[12]. If a child were removed from his mother, especially when he was very young they would not be able to bond with the mother or any of the family.

That means that even if the child found his real mother later, she would be like a stranger to him. It would be the same for the familys bond with the child. The child would not know his own culture if he were removed from his family when he is young. He would be brought up by white people and would learn their culture instead of his indigenous culture. If he finds his parents later they will be culturally different from him and they will not have a lot in common. The removed child would not have a sense of belonging to either the indigenous culture or the non-indigenous culture.

He would have been brought up in the non-indigenous culture, but the people from that culture most likely have mistreated or abused him so he wouldnt have thought he belonged there. But he would have never really met people of his culture, or lived with them so he wouldnt think that be belonged there either. Many of the Aboriginal traditional ways would be lost. The Aboriginal child would not learn his traditional ways but instead learn the white Australians ways. He would see them as normal because he would be brought up with them.

Since around the 1960s there has been a slow but steady shifting of attitudes and government policies towards the removal of Aboriginal children. The topic becoming popular in the media a few years ago has heightened the general public awareness of the problem and contributed to even greater changes in government policy. The early change was the stopping of the practice of removing Aboriginal children from their families at about the 1960s (depending on the state/territory).

Probably more significant changes have happened in the last 10 years with a final recognition of the wrongness of the removal of children. This has resulted in the government supporting the Aboriginal people involved, this support ranges from counselling support, to legal services support. The removal of Aboriginal children has become a popular media topic. This has made the general public of Australia know about the treatment of the Aboriginals and try to do something about it. This has made the government change some of their policies, both formally and informally.

On Australian day in 1938 the Aboriginal people held a day of mourning. It was for the 10 years of political protest against the racial policies of the government, that denied them citizenship and equal rights and the removal of their children. It started a change in the minds and hearts of white Australian people, who were celebrating 150 years of European settlement that day. The removal of Aboriginal children from their homes severely hurt them children involved and many of them were scarred for life.

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