Preface: I want to let you all know that I do not support what happened in Australia to the native peoples of one of the most amazing places on this planet. What happened was wrong, very wrong. I am simply giving you the reader some information on what happened in history. During my ½ year stay in Australia I realized that really the only people who know about this event are Australians. I never heard of this until I was there and after coming home to the States I realized that many people outside of Australia have never heard of these horrific events that have taken place in recent history. Hopefully you learn a thing or two about Australia’s history and how the government is now currently trying to make amends to their brutal history. Once again, this is a brief synopsis of what has happened over the past 100 years, if you seek further information visit any of the sites listed in my sources as they have loads of info on this subject!
Brief Overview 1880’s-1970’s:
I think it would be safe to say that not every government is necessarily proud of their past. In all reality, many governments would probably admit that they would like to erase some of their mistakes made throughout the countries history. The United States for example, enslaved an entire race, purposely introduced disease to many unknowing peoples and forcibly removed an entire population from their homeland… just to name a few. What if I told you we weren’t the only ones to make decisions for the people who founded the land we live on? What if I told you that up until the 1970’s, children were being forcibly removed from their families by governmental figures and placed into foster care in the cities of this island nation. Sounds like a nightmare situation, something only barbarians would do, right? I am here to tell you, this happened… and it happened in the paradise we know as: Australia.
From the 1890’s all the way up until the 1970’s, Aboriginal (Australian Natives) children were removed from their families in one way or another and placed into foster care within “White Australia.” Why you might ask, why did the government of Australia think this was okay at the time? The main and most accepted idea behind the removal of children from their homes was that the Australian government wanted to put an end to the Aboriginal people and have Australia be a predominantly white country. No matter what the reasoning behind this philosophy, this is just flat out ignorant and wrong. But, it happened. The idea was that if the government took the children from the families, placed them in a predominantly white population within the cities that the Aboriginal genes would eventually fade out through reproduction with fair skinned partners. This was the original plan but what seem to happen was most of the Aboriginal children ended up as domestic servants or station workers who were often underpaid or even unpaid, this essentially was the backbone of how Australia has prospered throughout the 1900’s.
Government authorities mainly went after Aboriginal children of mixed decent as they thought they would be able to adjust to ‘white culture’ with more ease than that of a child with full Aboriginal backgrounds. Often, children were taken right after birth given the name of “Blanket Babies.” This was due to them being placed under a blanket shortly after birth so the mothers could not see what was being taken away from her. Often the children were raised on mission plantations or by foster parents with no recollection of their Aboriginal heritage. Often time’s kids were beaten or punished if caught practicing any Aboriginal languages or traditions. Like mentioned before, many of these children were not given proper education by their parental figures and eventually came to become servants or stock men. Reports have also come out to say that many of the children were abused physically, emotionally and even sexually in some cases during their upbringing. Most of the time males and females were raised in different institutions in which some experts claim were similar to the operations of Hitler’s concentration camps in World War II. Obviously no mass exodus of a population going on here but many reports say that children living in these ‘homes’ were a number, not a name and were used as servants while receiving little to no education.
Although it is tough to come up with a definite number of how many children were stolen, the estimate is a little more than 6,200 children were stolen in New South Wales (one of Australia’s 8 states, think Ohio or Alabama) alone from 1883-1969. It is hard to come up with numbers due to many reasons; one being that simply not many records were taken due to the nature of what was going on here. The other reasons being many records were destroyed or lost throughout the years and many numbers were fudged in order for officials to prove their “successful assimilation” of the Aboriginal peoples. In 1994 a survey by the Australian Bureau said that one in every ten Aboriginal people over the age of 25 had been removed from their families, a number that is over 10,000 children throughout all of Australia. The worst part is that this still could be happening as more and more Aboriginal children are taken away by child protection services and put into “out-of-home” care.
Brief History of Legislation:
- 1869: Aborigines Protection Act was passed in Victoria, allowing government officials to order the removal of a child from their family.
- 1883: New South Whales Aborigines Protection Board is established to manage the lives of 9,000 people.
- 1897: Aboriginal Protection and Restriction of the Sale of Opium Act was passed in Queensland, allowing the Director of Native Welfare to become legal guardian of all Aboriginal children until 1965 as well as the removal of Aboriginals from their reserves and placing their children in dormitories.
- 1905: The Aborigines Act (W. Australia) is passed. Under the act, the Chief Protector is made the legal guardian of every Aboriginal and ‘half-caste’ child under 16 years old. In the following years, other states and territories enact similar laws.
- 1909: The Aborigines Protection Act (NSW) gives the Aborigines Protection Board power to assume full control and custody of the child of any Aborigine if a court found the child to be neglected under the Neglected Children and Juvenile Offenders Act 1905 (NSW)
- 1911: The Aborigines Act (S. Australia) makes the Chief Protector the legal guardian of every Aboriginal and ‘half-caste’ child. The Chief Protector is replaced by the Aborigines Protection Board in 1939 and guardianship power is repealed in 1962. The Northern Territory Aboriginals Ordinance gives the Chief Protector power to assume custody of any Aboriginal or ‘half-caste’ if it is deemed ‘necessary’ or ‘desirable’.
- 1915: The Aborigines Protection Amending Act (NSW) gives power to the Aboriginal Protection Board to separate Indigenous children from their families without the need to establish neglect in court.
- 1935: The introduction of the Infants Welfare Act (Tasmania) is used to remove Indigenous children on Cape Barren Island from their families.
- 1937: The first Commonwealth/State conference on ‘native welfare’ adopts assimilation as the national policy.
- 1940: The NSW Aborigines Protection Board loses its power to remove Indigenous children. The Board is renamed the Aborigines Welfare Board and is finally abolished in 1969.
- 1969: By 1969, all states have repealed the legislation allowing for the removal of Aboriginal children under the policy of ‘protection’. In the following years, Aboriginal and Islander Child Care Agencies are set up to contest removal applications and provide alternatives to the removal of Indigenous children from their families.
Source: http://www.sbs.com.au/news/article/2012/05/25/timeline- stolen-generations
What’s going on today?
Starting in 1980, the Australian government has been trying to make amends for their actions in during the stolen generation period. From arranging organization whose sole purpose is to connect families together who may have never met, to literally saying sorry (Sorry Day is a national holiday in Australia in order to remember those affected by these events) every year on May 26th. In my experience living in Australia, many lectures and presentations opened up with a slide saying something along these lines, “We thank the original native peoples of Australia for letting us use their land for our own use and accepting us onto their land. We apologize for the brutal history between the two cultures but hopefully can move onto a progressive society in which we can co-exist.” Obviously not verbatim in any sense of the word, but that has been my short experience with this on going issue. Although many of the laws have been disbanded pertaining the taking of children, Aboriginals are still being watched more heavily than other children by protective services and taken from their families. Obviously, not in the sense of what has happened in the past but still are being taken away and put into ‘better ‘ housing and lifestyles as described by the government.
The Stolen Generations will go down in history as one of Australia’s darkest times and no matter the apology or the efforts to reconnect lost families, nothing will really be able to make things right. It is an ongoing problem in the Land Down Under and really, no one knows the correct answer on how to set things straight due to the deeper issues caused by these actions. To me, not many people know of this even happened and that is the reason I am writing this brief overview. As said in the preface, for more information and stats regarding the Stolen Generation feel free to visit any of the websites listed below and thanks for reading!