Stolen Generations

Stolen Generations

The Stolen Generations (also Stolen generation and Stolen children) is a term used to describe those children of Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander descent who were removed from their families by the Australian and State government agencies and church missions, under acts of their respective parliaments. "Bringing them Home", [ Appendices listing and interpretation of state acts regarding 'Aborigines'] : [ Appendix 1.1 NSW] ; [ Appendix 1.2 ACT] ; [ Appendix 2 Victoria] ; [ Appendix 3 Queensland] ; [ Tasmania] ; [ Appendix 5 Western Australia] ; [ Appendix 6 South Australia] ; [ Appendix 7 Northern Territory] .] [ [ Bringing them home education module] : the laws: [ Australian Capital Territory] ; [ New South Wales] ; [ Northern Territory] ; [ Queensland Queensland] ; [ South Australia] ; [ Tasmania ] ; [ Victoria ] ; [ Western Australia] ] The removals occurred in the period between approximately 1869 [Marten, J.A., (2002), "Children and war", NYU Press, New York, p. 229 ISBN 0814756670] and 1969, [cite web
title= Indigenous Australia: Family
accessdate= 2008-03-28
author= Australian Museum
authorlink= Australian Museum
year= 2004
] cite book
last = Read
first = Peter
title = The Stolen Generations: The Removal of Aboriginal children in New South Wales 1883 to 1969
publisher = Department of Aboriginal Affairs (New South Wales government)
year = 1981
url =
isbn = 0-646-46221-0|format=PDF
] although, in some places, children were still being taken in the 1970s. [In its submission to the "Bringing Them Home" report, the Victorian government stated that "despite the apparent recognition in government reports that the interests of Indigenous children were best served by keeping them in their own communities, the number of Aboriginal children forcibly removed continued to increase, rising from 220 in 1973 to 350 in 1976" ( [ "Bringing Them Home": "Victoria"] )]

The extent of the removal of children, and the reasoning behind their removal, are contested. Documentary evidence, such as newspaper articles and reports to parliamentary committees, suggest a range of rationales. Motivations evident include child protection, beliefs that given their catastrophic population decline post white contact that black people would "die out" [cite web
title= The Passing of the Aborigines: A Lifetime spent among the Natives of Australia
last= Bates
first= Daisy
authorlink= Daisy Bates (Australia)
year= 1938
publisher= Project Gutenberg of Australia
pages= 243
quote= I did what I set out to do – to make their passing easier and to keepthe dreaded half-caste menace from our great continent
] , fears of miscegenation Fact|date=October 2008 and a desire to attain white racial purity.Fact|date=October 2008

Terms such as "stolen" were used in the context of taking children from their families - the Hon P. McGarry, a member of the Parliament of New South Wales, objected to the "Aborigines Protection Amending Act 1915" which enabled the Aborigines' Protection Board to remove Aboriginal children from their parents without having to establish that they were in any way neglected or mistreated; McGarry described the policy as "steal [ing] the child away from its parents". [ "Bringing Them Home" report, part 2, chapter 3] ] . In 1923, in the "Adelaide Sun" an article stated "The word 'stole' may sound a bit far-fetched but by the time we have told the story of the heart-broken Aboriginal mother we are sure the word will not be considered out of place." [ [ Interview with Dr Anna Haebich, The Stolen Generation, "Ockham's Razor", ABC Radio National, broadcast Sunday 6 January 2002, accessed 19 February 2008] . Anna is author of "Broken Circles, Fragmenting Indigenous Families 1800-2000", Fremantle, Fremantle Arts Centre Press ISBN 1863683054]

Indigenous Australians in most jurisdictions were "protected", effectively being wards of the State. [ [ Timeline of Legislation Affecting Aboriginal People] , Government of South Australia, Aboriginal Education and Employment Services] [ [ Documenting Democracy at National Archives of Australia: Australia's Story In Victoria, for example, "The (Aboriginal Protection) Act gave powers to the Board for the Protection of Aborigines which subsequently developed into an extraordinary level of control of people's lives including regulation of residence, employment, marriage, social life and other aspects of daily life".] ] The protection was done through each jurisdictions' Aboriginal Protection Board, in Victorian and Western Australia these boards were also responsible for applying what were known as "Half-caste acts".

More recent usage was Peter Read's 1981 publication of "The Stolen Generations: The Removal of Aboriginal children in New South Wales 1883 to 1969". The 1997 publication of "Bringing Them Home - Report of the National Inquiry into the Separation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children from Their Families".Cite web|url=|title=Bringing them home: The 'Stolen Children' report |accessdate=2006-10-08|publisher=Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission|year=2005] brought broader awareness of the "Stolen Generations."

The acceptance of the term in Australia as illustrated by the 13 February 2008 formal apology to the Stolen Generations [ [ "Rudd says sorry"] , Dylan Welch, "Sydney Morning Herald" February 13, 2008] , led by Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, and passed by both houses of the Parliament of Australia. Previously apologies had been offered by State and Territory governments in the period 1997-2001. [ [ List of "Apologies by State and Territory Parliaments" (1997-2001) at HREOC] ]

There however remains opposition to acceptance of the validity of the term "Stolen Generations". This was illustrated by the former Prime Minister John Howard refusing to apologise and the then Minister for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs, John Herron controversially disputing the usage in April 2000. [ Senator the Hon John Herron, Minister for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs to the Senate Legal And Constitutional References Committee, "'Inquiry Into The Stolen Generation' Federal Government Submission", March 2000] ] Others who dispute the validity of the term include: Peter Howson, Minister for Aboriginal Affairs in 1971-72, Keith Windschuttle and Andrew Bolt [Disputing the appropriateness of the term: Citation
last = Windschuttle
first = Keith
author-link = Keith Windschuttle
title = Don't let facts spoil the day
newspaper = The Australian
pages =
year = 2008
date = 2008-02-09
url =,25197,23182149-28737,00.html
argues that the removals were done for the children's good and that Peter Read in cite book
last = Read
first = Peter
authorlink =
coauthors =
title = The Stolen Generations: The Removal of Aboriginal children in New South Wales 1883 to 1969
publisher = Department of Aboriginal Affairs (New South Wales government)
year = 1981
location =
pages =
url =
doi =
id =
isbn = 0-646-46221-0|format=PDF
misrepresented the evidence, Citation
last = Bolt
first = Andrew
author-link = Andrew Bolt
title = Stolen generations: My Melbourne Writers' Festival speech
newspaper = Herald Sun
pages =
date = 2006-09-05
url =
and Citation
last = Bolt
first = Andrew
author-link = Andrew Bolt
title = Another stolen life
newspaper = Herald Sun
pages =
date = 2006-09-19
url =
] Others argue against these critics, responding to Windschuttle and Bolt in particular. [ [ Dr Naomi Parry, Debunking Windschuttle's benign interpretation of history, "Crikey", 12 February 2008] , also Peter Read addresses Windschuttle's article of 9 February 2008 in Citation
last = Read
first = Peter
title = Don't let facts spoil this historian's campaign
work = The Australian
date = 2008-02-18
url =,25197,23229208-7583,00.html
accessdate = 2008-02-18
, and cite news
last = Manne
first = Robert
author-link = Robert Manne
title = The cruelty of denial
work = The Age
date = 2008-02-18
url =
accessdate = 2008-02-18
, in response to Bolt

Emergence of the child removal policy

One view suggests that the motivation and purpose of the laws providing for the removal of Aboriginal children from their parents was child protection, with government policy makers and officials responding to an observed need to provide protection for neglected, abused or abandoned mixed-descent children. [Peter Howson, [ Legal Notes: The Stolen Generations True Believers Take One Step Back, "National Observer", No. 49, Winter 2001] ] An example of the abandonment of mixed race children in the 1920s is given in a report by Walter Baldwin Spencer [ [ Article on Baldwin Spencer] in the Australian Dictionary of Biography] that many mixed-descent children born during construction of The Ghan railway were abandoned at early ages with no one to provide for them. This incident and others spurred the need for state action to provide for and protect such children. [Peter Howson, [ Academia's Sorry Obsession: Manne et al would help Aborigines more by looking at the present, not the past, "The Age", 3 April 2001] on the Institute for Private Enterprise website]

Other 19th- and early 20th-century contemporaneous documents indicate that the policy of removing Aboriginal children from their parents related to different beliefs: that given the catastrophic population decline of Aboriginal people post white contact that they would "die out", that the 'full-blood' tribal Aboriginal population would be unable to sustain itself, and was doomed to inevitable extinction. [Neville, AO (1930). "West Australian", 18 April] Western Australia State Archives, 993/423/38, "Absorption of Half Castes into the White Population"] [Russell McGregor, "Imagined Destinies. Aboriginal Australians and the Doomed Race Theory, 1900-1972", Melbourne: MUP, 1997] Ideas of eugenics and fears of miscegenation with a desire to maintain white racial purity were related to the ideology that mankind could be divided into a civilisational hierarchy. This supposed that the civilisation of northern Europeans was superior to that of Aborigines, based on comparative technological advancement. Some adherents to these beliefs considered any proliferation of mixed-descent children (labelled 'half-castes', [Anderson, Warwick. "The Cultivation of Whiteness: Science, Health and Racial Destiny in Australia". 2003, page 308.] 'crossbreeds', 'quadroons' and 'octoroons' [Anderson, Warwick. "The Cultivation of Whiteness: Science, Health and Racial Destiny in Australia". 2003, page 231.] ) to be a threat to the nature and stability of the prevailing civilisation, or to a perceived racial or civilisational "heritage". [Anderson, Warwick. "The Cultivation of Whiteness: Science, Health and Racial Destiny in Australia". 2003, page 160.] For example, in the 1930s, the Northern Territory Protector of Natives, Dr. Cecil Cook, perceived the continuing rise in numbers of "half-caste" children as a problem. His proposed solution [] was:

Similarly, the Chief Protector of Aborigines in Western Australia, AO Neville, wrote in an article for "The West Australian" in 1930: cquote|Eliminate the full-blood and permit the white admixture to half-castes and eventually the race will become white. ["The West Australian", 18 April 1930.]

The policy in practice

The earliest introduction of child removal to legislation is recorded in the Victorian "Aboriginal Protection Act 1869". The Central Board for the Protection of Aborigines had been advocating such powers since 1860, and the passage of the Act gave the colony of Victoria a wide suite of powers over Aboriginal and 'half-caste' persons, including the forcible removal of children, especially 'at risk' girls. [M.F. Christie, "Aboriginal People in Colonial Victoria, 1835-86", pp.175-176.] By 1950, similar policies and legislation had been adopted by other states and territories. [Such as the "Aboriginal Protection and restriction of the sale of opium act 1897 (Qld)", the "Aborigines Ordinance 1918 (NT)", the "Aborigines Act 1934 (SA)" and the "1936 Native Administration Act (WA)". For more information, see [ "Bringing them Home", appendices listing and interpretation of state acts regarding 'Aborigines'] ]

The child removal legislation resulted in widespread removal of children from their parents and exercise of sundry guardianship powers by Aboriginal protectors over Aborigines up to the age of 16 or 21. Policemen or other agents of the state (such as 'Aboriginal Protection Officers') were given the power to locate and transfer babies and children of mixed descent from their mothers or families or communities into institutions. In these Australian states and territories, half-caste institutions (both government and missionary) were established in the early decades of the 20th century for the reception of these separated children. [ [ Tim Richardson on "The Stolen Generations: Robert Manne"] ] Examples of such institutions include Moore River Native Settlement in Western Australia, Doomadgee Aboriginal Mission in Queensland, Ebenezer Mission in Victoria and Wellington Valley Mission in New South Wales.

According to the "Bringing Them Home" Report, at least 100,000 children were removed from their parents, and the figure may be substantially higher (the report notes that formal records of removals were very poorly kept). It stated:

The report closely examined the distinctions between "forcible removal", "removal under threat or duress", "official deception", "uninformed voluntary release", and "voluntary release". [ Bringing them Home - Scope of the Inquiry ] ] The evidence indicated that in a large number of cases children were brutally and forcibly removed from their parent or parents, [The "Bringing Them Home" Report documents several cases of such removals in all states and territories. See] possibly even from the hospital shortly after their birth. [ [ Bringing them Home - 7 Western Australia ] ] Aboriginal Protection Officers often made the judgement on removal. In some cases, families were required to sign legal documents to relinquish care to the state, though this process was subverted in a number of instances.Fact|date=February 2008 In Western Australia, the "Aborigines Act 1905" removed the legal guardianship of Aboriginal parents and made their children all legal wards of the state, so no parental permission was required. [ [ Aborigines Act of 1905] ]

In 1915, in New South Wales, the "Aborigines Protection Amending Act 1915" gave the Aborigines' Protection Board authority to remove Aboriginal children "without having to establish in court that they were neglected"; it was alleged by Professor Peter Read that Board members sometimes wrote simply "For being Aboriginal" as the explanation when recording a removal, however the number of files bearing such a comment appear to be on the order of either one or two with two others bearing only the word "Aboriginal". [Citation
last = Read
first = Peter
title = Don't let facts spoil this historian's campaign
work = The Australian
date = 2008-02-18
url =,25197,23229208-7583,00.html
accessdate = 2008-02-18
] At the time, some members of Parliament objected to the amendment; one member stated it enabled the board to "steal the child away from its parents", and at least two members argued that the amendment would result in children being subjected to unpaid labour tantamount to "slavery"."ibid"]

In 1911, the Chief Protector of Aborigines in South Australia, William Garnet South, reportedly "lobbied for the power to remove Aboriginal children without a court hearing because the courts sometimes refused to accept that the children were neglected or destitute". South argued that "all children of mixed descent should be treated as neglected". [ [ "Bringing Them Home" report: "South Australia"] ] His lobbying reportedly played a part in the enactment of the "Aborigines Act 1911"; this made him the legal guardian of every Aboriginal child in South Australia, including so-called "half-castes".

The "Bringing Them Home" report also identified instances of official misrepresentation and deception, such as when caring and able parents were incorrectly described by Aboriginal Protection Officers as not being able to properly provide for their children, or when parents were told by government officials that their children had died, even though this was not the case. One first hand account referring to events in 1935 stated:

The report discovered that removed children were, in most cases, placed into institutional facilities operated by religious or charitable organisations, although a significant number, particularly females, were "fostered" out. Children taken to such places were frequently punished if caught speaking local indigenous languages, and the intention was specifically to prevent them being socialised in Aboriginal cultures, and raise the boys as agricultural labourers and the girls as domestic servants. Many Europeans at the time worked in similar occupations.

A common aspect of the removals was the failure by these institutions to keep records of the actual parentage of the child, or such details as the date or place of birth. As is stated in the report:

The report said that among the 502 inquiry witnesses, 17% of female witnesses and 7.7% of male witnesses reported experiencing a sexual assault while in an institution, at work, or with a foster or adoptive family.

ocial impact on members of the Stolen Generations

The social impacts of forced removal have been measured and found to be quite severe.Bereson, Itiel. Decades of Change: Australia in the Twentieth Century. Richmond, Victoria: Heinemann Educational Australia, 1989] Although the stated aim of the "resocialisation" programme was to improve the integration of Aboriginal people into modern society, a study conducted in Melbourne and cited in the official report found that there was no tangible improvement in the social position of "removed" Aborigines as compared to "non-removed", particularly in the areas of employment and post-secondary education. Most notably, the study indicated that removed Aboriginal people were actually less likely to have completed a secondary education, three times as likely to have acquired a police record and were twice as likely to use illicit drugs. The only notable advantage "removed" Aboriginal people possessed was a higher average income, which the report noted was most likely due to the increased urbanisation of removed individuals, and hence greater access to welfare payments than for Aboriginal people living in tribal communities.

By around the age of 18 the children were released from government control and where it was available were sometimes allowed to view their government file. According to the testimony of one Aboriginal person:

The "Bringing Them Home" report condemned the policy of disconnecting children from their "cultural heritage". Said one witness to the commission:

On the other hand, some Aboriginal people do not condemn the government’s past actions, as they see that part of their intention was to offer opportunities for education and an eventual job. According to the testimony of one Aboriginal person:

Historical debates over the Stolen Generations

Despite the lengthy and detailed findings set out in the "Bringing Them Home" report, the nature and extent of the removals documented in the report have been debated and disputed within Australia, with some commentators questioning the findings and asserting that the Stolen Generations has been exaggerated. Sir Ronald Wilson, former President of the Human Rights and Equal Opportunities Commission and a Commissioner on the Inquiry, has stated that none of the more than 500 witnesses who appeared before the Inquiry were cross-examined. This failure to cross-examine has been the basis of criticism by the anthropologist Ron Brunton as well as by the conservative Liberal Party Federal Government, [ [ Stolen Generations] , "Background Briefing", ABC Radio National, broadcast 2 July 2000, retrieved 19 February 2008] An Australian Federal Government submission has questioned the conduct of the Commission which produced the report, arguing that the Commission failed to critically appraise or test the claims on which it based the report and fails to distinguish between those separated from their families "with and without consent, and with and without good reason". Not only has the number of children removed from their parents been questioned (critics often quote the ten percent estimate, which they say does not constitute a 'generation'), but also the intent and effects of the government policy.

Some conservative journalists, such as Andrew Bolt, consider the Stolen Generations is a "preposterous and obscene" myth or "theory" and "propaganda" and that there was actually no policy in any state or territory at any time for the systematic removal of "half-caste" Aboriginal children. [ [ Stolen generations: My Melbourne Writers' Festival speech] - Andrew Bolt, Herald Sun] [ [ Another stolen life] - Andrew Bolt, Herald Sun] Professor of politics at La Trobe University, Robert Manne, has responded that Bolt's failure to address the wealth of documentary and anecdotal evidence demonstrating the existence of the Stolen Generations amounts to a clear case of historical denialism. [ [ The cruelty of denial] - Robert Manne] Bolt argues that a key issue of the debate over the existence of a "Stolen Generations" is the identification of particular persons as having been 'stolen' and further that it would require that it be substantiated that children had been 'stolen' in such numbers as to justify inferring the existence of a policy to do so, as opposed to such cases being aberrations. He and other sceptics of the existence of such a child removal policy would require that the circumstances of the removal of such children be subjected to the standard of scrutiny found in a court of law or a similar investigatory standard, and that it be shown that they were 'stolen' and not abandoned, given up or removed for legitimate reasons. Many documents in state archives detail the policies and events that come under the term "Stolen Generation". [ cite book |title= A History of Queensland |last= Evans |first= R. |year= 2007 |publisher= Cambridge U. Press |location= Cambridge UK |isbn= 13 978-0-521-54539-6 ISBN-10 0-521-54539-0 |pages= pp. 10-12 ] [ cite book |title= Our State of Mind |last= Beresford |first= Q. & Omaji, P.| year= 1998 |publisher= Fremantle Centre Press |location= Fremantle, Western Australia |isbn= 1 86368 235X ]

In April 2000, controversy stirred when the then Aboriginal Affairs Minister in the conservative Howard Government, John Herron, tabled a report in the Australian Parliament that questioned whether or not there had been a "Stolen Generation", on the semantic distinction that as "only 10% of Aboriginal children" had been removed, they did not constitute an entire "generation". The report received media attention Fact|date=February 2008 and there were protests. [ No stolen generation: Australian Govt] , ABC TV 3 April 2000, retrieved 19 February 2008] ] Dr Herron apologised for the "understandable offence taken by some people" as a result of his comments, although he refused to alter the report as it had been tabled, and in particular the figure of 10%.

Genocide debate

Some commentators such as Sir Ronald Wilson have alleged that the Stolen Generations was nothing less than a case of attempted genocide, because it was widely believed at the time that the policy would cause Aborigines to die out. [cite news | title=A Stolen Generation Cries Out| publisher=Reuters |date=May 1997 | url=]

Robert Manne argues that the expressed views of government bureaucrats, such as A.O. Neville, to merge the Aboriginal race into the white population by means of "breeding out the colour", and therefore eventually resulting in the former being "forgotten", bore strong similarities to the views of the Nazis in 1930s Germany.Robert Manne, "Sorry Business: The Road to the Apology", "The Monthly", March 2008, pp. 22-31.] Manne points out that, though the term 'genocide' had not yet entered the English language, the policies of Neville and others were termed by some contemporaries as the 'die out' or 'breed out' policy, giving an indication of their proposed intent. Nevertheless, he also states that it is now "generally acknowledged" by academics that the authors of the "Bringing Them Home" report were wrong to argue that Australian authorities had committed genocide by removing indigenous children from their families, because assimilation has never been regarded in law as equivalent to genocide.

Conservative Australian historian Keith Windschuttle contends that no genocide has ever taken place in Australia. He concedes there were "obnoxious" attempts to "breed out" Aboriginality in Western Australia and the Northern Territory but says those policies concentrated on intermarriage, not child removal, and were undercut by the ineptitude of the bureaucrats involved. [,25197,23183633-5013404,00.html Imre Salusinszky, Aboriginal 'genocide' claim denied, "The Australian", 9 February, 2008] ] In 2008 it was announced that the second volume of Windschuttle's work "The Fabrication of Australian History", would be published, which will address the issue of the removal of Aboriginal children.

Paul Bartrop, co-author of "The Dictionary of Genocide" with US scholar Samuel Totten, rejects the use of the word genocide to describe Australian colonial history in general, but says the use of the term can be "sustained relatively easily" when describing the Stolen Generations. Dr Bartrop, who wrote the entry in the dictionary entitled "Australia, Genocide in:", said he used the 1948 UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, as cited by Ronald Wilson in his 1997 "Bringing Them Home" report, as the benchmark for the use of the term genocide. [,25197,23421344-2702,00.html Rosemary Sorensen and Ashleigh Wilson, Stolen Generations listed as genocide, "The Australian", 24 March, 2008] ]

Historian Inga Clendinnen suggests that the term genocide rests on the question of intentionality. "There's not much doubt, with great murderous performances that were typically called genocide, that they were deliberate and intentional," she argues. "Beyond that, it always gets very murky."

Public awareness and recognition

Historian Professor Peter Read, at the time at the Australian National University, was the first to use the phrase 'stolen generation'. It was used by him first as a title for a magazine article which was followed by a book, "The Stolen Generations" (1981). Widespread awareness of the Stolen Generations, and the practices which created it, only began to enter the public arena in the late 1980s through the efforts of Aboriginal and white activists, artists and (Archie Roach's "Took the Children Away" and Midnight Oil's "The Dead Heart" being examples of the latter). The extensive public interest in the Mabo case had the side effect of throwing the media spotlight on all issues related to Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders in Australia, and most notably the Stolen Generations.

In early 1995 Rob Riley of the Aboriginal Legal Service published "Telling Our Story" which brought to the public attention the effect of past government policies that saw thousands of Aboriginal children removed from their families and reared in missions, orphanages, reserves and white foster homes.Fact|date=July 2008

The Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission "National Inquiry into the Separation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children from Their Families" commenced in May 1995, presided over by Sir Ronald Wilson, the president of the (Australian) Human Rights and Equal Opportunities Commission, and Mick Dodson, the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner at the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission (HREOC). During the ensuing 17 months, the Inquiry visited every state and Territory in Australia, heard testimony from 535 Aboriginal Australians, and received submissions of evidence from over 600 more. In April 1997 the official "Bringing Them Home" Report was released.

Between the commissioning of the National Inquiry and the release of the final report in 1997, the conservative government of John Howard had replaced the Keating government. The report proved to be a considerable embarrassment for the Howard administration, as it recommended that the Australian Government formally apologise to the affected families, a proposal actively rejected by Howard, on the grounds that a formal admission of wrongdoing would lead to massive compensation litigationFact|date=February 2008. Howard was quoted as saying "Australians of this generation should not be required to accept guilt and blame for past actions and policies." [ [ Opening Ceremony Speeches ] ] As a result Commissioner Dodson resigned from the Council for Aboriginal Reconciliation, saying in a newspaper column that "I despair for my country and regret the ignorance of political leaders who do not appreciate what is required to achieve reconciliation for us as a nation."Fact|date=February 2008

As a result of the report, formal apologies were tabled and passed in the state parliaments of Victoria, South Australia and New South Wales, and also in the parliament of the Northern Territory. On 26 May 1998 the first "National Sorry Day" was held, and reconciliation events were held nationally, and attended by over a million people. As public pressure continued to increase, Howard drafted a motion of "deep and sincere regret over the removal of Aboriginal children from their parents" which was passed by the federal parliament in August 1999. Howard went on to say that the Stolen Generation represented "...the most blemished chapter in the history of this country."cite news|url=|title=No stolen generation: Australian Govt|date=3 April 2000|work=7.30 Report (ABC)|accessdate=2008-02-23]

In July 2000, the issue of the Stolen Generation came before the United Nations Commission on Human Rights in Geneva who heavily criticised the Howard government for its manner of attempting to resolve the issues related to the Stolen Generation. Australia was also the target of a formal censure by the UN Committee for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.Fact|date=July 2008

Global media attention turned again to the Stolen Generations issue during the Sydney 2000 Summer Olympics. A large "Aboriginal tent city" was established on the grounds of Sydney University to bring attention to Aboriginal issues in general. The Aboriginal athlete Cathy Freeman (who was chosen to light the Olympic Flame and went on to win the gold medal for the 400 metre sprint) disclosed in interviews that her own grandmother was a victim of forced removal. The internationally successful rock group Midnight Oil obtained worldwide media interest when they performed at the Olympic closing ceremony wearing black sweatsuits with the word "SORRY" emblazoned across them. [cite news|url=|title=The sun sets on Midnight Oil|date=4 December 2002|work=The Age|accessdate=2008-02-23]

Prior to the Sydney Olympics a mockumentary called The Games was broadcast on ABC TV. In the episode shown on 3 July 2000 the actor John Howard made a recording "for international release" of an apology to the Stolen Generation, ostensibly on behalf of the Australian people.Fact|date=February 2008

Australian federal parliament apology

On December 11, 2007, the newly installed Prime Minister Kevin Rudd announced that an apology would be made to Indigenous Australians, the wording of which would be decided in consultation with Aboriginal leaders. [cite web
url =
title = "How to say sorry and heal the wounds"
accessdate = 2007-12-11
last = Peatling
first = Stephanie
date = 2007-12-11
publisher = [ "Sydney Morning Herald"]
] On January 27, 2008, Rudd announced that the apology would be made on or soon after the first day of parliament in Canberra, on February 12. [cite web
url =,22049,23117918-5001021,00.html
title = "Kevin Rudd racing to historic Aboriginal apology"
accessdate = 2008-01-27
last = Lewis
first = Steve
date = 2008-01-27
publisher = [ "Daily telegraph (Australia)"]
] The date was later set to February 13, when it was ultimately issued.

tances on the proposed apology

For more than a decade since the Bringing Them Home report on forced separation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children was handed to Liberal prime minister, John Howard, he and his conservative coalition colleagues consistently rejected calls for a formal government apology. The reason put forward for the rejection to calls for an apology was that it was believed that if a formal apology was issued by the government, some Indigenous Australians could act upon the apology as a confession, one that could be used in the judicial system and the Indigenous Australians could claim money etc. from the government.

The announcement of an apology by the new Labor prime minister led to a split reaction from the Liberal Party whose leader Brendan Nelson initially said that an apology would risk encouraging a "culture of guilt" in Australia. However, other senior Liberals expressed support for an apology, e.g., Malcolm Turnbull, Peter Costello, Bill Heffernan and former Liberal prime minister Malcolm Fraser. [ [,21985,23140963-662,00.html "Liberals ready to think about saying sorry"] , Steve Lewis, "Herald Sun", February 1, 2008] Former Liberal minister Judi Moylan said: "I think as a nation we owe an apology. We shouldn't be thinking about it as an individual apology — it's an apology that is coming from the nation state because it was governments that did these things." [ [ "Liberal division grows on apology"] , Misha Schubert, "The Age", January 30, 2008] Nelson himself later declared he supported the apology. [ [ "Howard will not attend apology"] , "Sydney Morning Herald", February 8, 2008] Following a party meeting, the Liberal Party as a whole expressed its support for an apology, which thereby achieved bipartisan consensus. Brendan Nelson stated: "I, on behalf of the Coalition, of the alternative government of Australia, are [sic] providing in-principle support for the offer of an apology to the forcibly removed generations of Aboriginal children." [ [ "Opposition joins rush to say sorry"] , Daniel Hoare, ABC News, February 7, 2008] Tony Abbott defended John Howard's rebuttal of the apology and was "absolutely right" to defend his record:

Lyn Austin, chairwoman of Stolen Generations Victoria, stated her view on why she believed an apology was necessary, recalling her experiences as a stolen child:

The text of the apology did not make reference to compensation to Aboriginal people as a whole or to members of the Stolen Generations specifically.

Apology text

At 9:30am on February 13, 2008, Rudd presented the apology to Indigenous Australians as a motion to be voted on by the house. The form of the apology was as follows: [ [ "The words Rudd will use to say 'sorry'"] , ABC, February 12, 2008] [ [ "Rudd says sorry"] , Dylan Welch, "Sydney Morning Herald", February 13, 2008]

cquote|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 nation's history.

The time has now come for the nation to turn 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.

Rudd followed the apology with a 20-minute speech to the house about the need for the apology, [cite web |url= |title= Video: Watch Kevin Rudd's full apology |accessdate= 2008-02-14] cite web |url=,21985,23206474-661,00.html |title= Full text of Kevin Rudd's speech |accessdate= 2008-02-14] which was widely applauded among both Indigenous Australians and the non-indigenous general public. [ [ "Thunderous applause in Sydney for Rudd's speech"] , Australian Associated Press, "Sydney Morning Herald", February 13, 2008.] [ [ "Speech gets standing ovation in Redfern"] Leesha McKenny, "Sydney Morning Herald", February 13, 2008]

Opposition leader's parliamentary reply and reaction

Leader of the Opposition Brendan Nelson then also delivered a 20-minute speech in which he endorsed the apology, after which the House of Representatives unanimously adopted the proposed motion, although some members of the opposition made themselves absent in protest at the apology, [ [ "Australia apology to Aborigines"] , BBC, February 13, 2008] and sections of Nelson's reply drew heavy criticism and anger.

People watching Nelson's reply speech protested nationwide. Thousands of people who had gathered in Canberra and Melbourne turned their backs on the screens displaying Nelson giving his speech; in Perth people booed and jeered until the screen was eventually switched off; those watching in Parliament House's Great Hall began a slow clap, finally turning their backs, with similar scenes and walk-outs in Sydney and elsewhere. [ [,21985,23206296-661,00.html "Nelson comments draw indigenous anger"] , Ben Packham, "Herald Sun", February 13, 2008]

enate consideration

Later that day, a motion for an apology in identical terms was considered by the Senate. The Leader of the Greens, Senator Bob Brown, attempted to amend the motion to have it include words committing parliament to offering compensation to those who suffered loss under past indigenous policies, but was opposed by all the other parties. The Democrats opposed the Greens' amendment for compensation, saying the apology should be allowed to stand on its own. The original motion was passed unanimously. [ [ Senate Hansard, 13 February 2008] ] [ [,23599,23206550-29277,00.html Brown defeated in 'sorry' compo bid] ]

Legal status and compensation

The legal circumstances regarding the Stolen Generations remain unclear. Although some compensation claims are pending, it is not possible for a court to rule on behalf of plaintiffs simply because they were removed, as, at the time, such removals were authorised under Australian law. Australian federal and state governments' statute law and associated regulations provided for the removal from their birth families and communities of mixed-race Aboriginal children, or those who appeared mixed. Fact|date=July 2008

The apology is not expected to have any legal impact on claims for compensation. [ [ "Apology will not legally impact compo claims: Law Society"] "ABC News", February 13, 2008]


Cubillo and Gunner

In the Federal Court of Australia cases of Cubillo and Gunner, their claims failed [ [ Stolen Generations Fail to Court Justice, "The Law Report", ABC Radio National, Tuesday 15/8/2000] retrieved 15 February 2008] ] . The presiding judge, Justice Maurice O'Loughlin, noted in his summary judgment that he was not ruling that there would never be valid cases for compensation with regard to the Stolen Generations, only that in these two specific cases he could not find evidence of illegal conduct by the officials involved. [ [ Cubillo v Commonwealth of Australia (includes summary) (2001) FCA 1213 (31 August 2001)] ] Investigations revealed that Cubillo, aged eight years, was removed from a remote station in 1947 when her father went missing and her mother and grandmother were dead. Gunner, it turned out, had been sent to Alice Springs to get an education with the consent of his mother. [ [ Bolt, A., Stolen generations: My Melbourne Writers’ Festival speech, September 05, 2006, Herald Sun, Melbourne, Australia] ]

Bruce Trevorrow

On 1 August 2007, in a decision in the Supreme Court of South Australia by Justice Thomas Gray, Bruce Trevorrow, a member of the Stolen Generation, was awarded $775,000 compensation ["The Advertiser", Adelaide, Thur August 2 2007] The SA government announced that it would pay the compensation awarded to Trevorrow but at the same time, seek to review in the High Court to clarify the court's findings of law and fact.

Trevorrow did not have long to celebrate his victory in the courts. He died in Victoria on 20 June, 2008, at the age of 51, less than a year after the court decision.

"The West Australian" newspaper reported Trevorrow's story as follows: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. ["The West Australian", Thursday August 2 2007]

Andrew Bolt of the "Herald Sun" newspaper stated:

cquote|As Gray ruled: "Mrs Angas may have been well-intentioned . . . but was well aware, or ought to have been aware, that the removal of the plaintiff from his family, and his placement with the Davies family, was undertaken in circumstances that were understood to be without legal authority, beyond power and contrary to authoritative legal advice."

That illegality, said Gray, was why Bruce Trevorrow deserved a payout.

The picture the judge paints over many pages is compelling: South Australia never had any laws – or policies – authorising anyone to steal Aboriginal children for racist reasons." [Andrew Bolt, [ The stolen truth, "Herald Sun"] , 08 August 2007] (See "Bringing them Home", [ Appendix 6] for a listing and interpretation of South Australian acts regarding 'Aborigines' and "Bringing them home education module": [ South Australia laws] regarding relevant South Australian law and policy.)

Films and books

"Rabbit-Proof Fence"

The 2002 Australian film "Rabbit-Proof Fence" was based on the book "Follow the Rabbit-Proof Fence" by Doris Pilkington Garimara. It concerns the author's mother and two other young mixed-race Aboriginal girls who ran away from Moore River Native Settlement, north of Perth, in order to return to their Aboriginal families. In a subsequent interview with the ABC, Doris recalled her removal from her mother at age three or four, arriving at the settlement in 1931. She was not reunited with her mother until she was 25 and, until that time, she believed that her mother had given her away. When they were reunited, Doris was unable to speak her native language and had been taught to regard Indigenous culture as evil. [ [ Doris Pilkington ] ] .

Documentary "Kanyini"

The principal persona of Melanie Hogan's film "Kanyini", [ [ Review by Peter Thompson, Channel 9 "Sunday", 27 August 2006] ] [ [ Review by Scott Murray, "The Age" 8 September 2006] ] Bob Randall, is an elder of the Yankunytjatjara people, and one of the listed traditional owners of Uluru. He was taken away from his mother as a child. He remained at the government reservation until he was 20, working at various jobs, including as a carpenter, stockman and crocodile hunter. He helped establish the Adelaide Community College, and lectured on Aboriginal cultures. He served as the director of the Northern Australia Legal Aid Service, and established Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander centres at the Australian National University, University of Canberra and University of Wollongong. He was named 'Indigenous Person of the Year' in 1999 [Sacha Molitorisz [ "Kanyini: Film review"] , Sydney Morning Herald, September 6, 2006] and inducted into the Northern Territory musical hall of fame for songs such as "Brown Skin Baby", "Red Sun" and "Black Moon" (about the Coniston massacre). He is also the author of two books: his autobiography "Songman" and a children's book, "Tracker Tjginji". [ [ Bob Randall - 'Uncle Bob'] Kayini official website, accessdate: 2008-02-21]

ee also

*History of Australia
*History wars
*Moseley Royal Commission
*White Australia policy

Notable persons

*Ken Colbung, political activist and leader.
*Katherine Mary Clutterbuck (Sister Kate)
*Belinda Dann, born as Quinlyn Warrakoo, forced name change to Belinda Boyd. Deceased at 107 years of age making her the longest lived member of the stolen generation.
*Polly Farmer, Australian rules footballer.
*Sue Gordon, Perth Children's Court magistrate.
*Helen Moran, co-chair of National Sorry Day Committee
*Professor Sally Morgan, editor of "Echoes of the past: Sister Kate's home revisited" (Centre for Indigenous History and the Arts 2002) with Tjalaminu Mia, and author of "My Place".
*A. O. Neville, W.A Protector Of Aborigines from 1915-45 and advocate of the removal of children.
*May O'Brien, W.A. educator and author
*Doris Pilkington Garimara, author of "Follow the Rabbit Proof Fence".
*Bob Randall, Indigenous Australian of the Year.
*Rob Riley (deceased), CEO of the Aboriginal Legal Service 1990–1995, author of "Telling Our Story" which instigated the National Inquiry into Separation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children from their Families.
*Archie Roach, musician
*Cedric Wyatt, Chief Executive Officer of the Department of Aboriginal Affairs in WA.


*Americanization (of Native Americans)
*Canadian residential school system
*Native schools of New Zealand


External links

Bibliography and guides

* [ "Stolen Generations Bibliography: A select bibliography of published references to the separation of Aboriginal families (and) the removal of Aboriginal children"] Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies (AIATSIS)
* [ Background note: "Sorry": the unfinished business of the Bringing Them Home report", Australian Parliamentary Library, 4 February 2008]

Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission

* [ Response to government to the national apology to the Stolen Generations' by Tom Calma - 13 February 2008]
* [ Resources on "Bringing Them Home"]
** [ "Bringing Them Home"] (at Austlii [ [ Bringing them Home - 7 Western Australia] ] )
** [ Education module on the separation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children from their Families (2007)]
* [ "Apologies by State and Territory Parliaments" (1997-2001)]


* [ "An Index to the Chief Protector of Aborigines Files 1898 - 1908"]
* [ Guide to Institutions Attended by Aboriginal People in Western Australia Compiled by researchers employed by the State Solicitor’s Office]
* [ Sister Kate's on the WA Government Heritage Register]
* [ West Australian Government history of Noongar in the South West]
* [ Aboriginal Western Australia and Federation]
* [ Senator the Hon John Herron, Minister for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs to the Senate Legal And Constitutional References Committee, "Inquiry Into The Stolen Generation" Federal Government Submission", March 2000]


* [ A Trans-Generational Effect of The Aborigines Act 1905 (WA): The Making of the Fringedwellers in the South-West of Western Australia]
* [ Essay by Robert Manne]
** [,21985,20371786-5000117,00.html Robert Manne's list]
* [ "White Over Black: Discourses of Whiteness in Australian Culture" in Borderlands eJournal] Focuses on debates about representing Australia’s colonial history, specifically in regard to child removal.
* [ Mark Stephen Copland, "Calculating Lives: The Numbers and Narratives of Forced Removals in Queensland 1859 - 1972"] Electronic full-text version of PhD Thesis.
* [ "The systematic removal of indigenous children from their families in Australia and Canada: the history – similarities and differences"]
* [ "The stolen generations: implications for Australian civilization, citizenship and governance"]

News reports

* [ "The agony of Australia's Stolen Generation - The first of Australia's Stolen Generations to win compensation."] BBC News
* [ WA's Black Chapter]
* [,,2239928,00.html "Australia's 'stolen' children get apology but no cash"] , Barbara McMahon, "The Observer", January 13, 2008
* [ "A sorry way to right a terrible wrong"] , Anne Summers, "Sydney Morning Herald", January 12, 2008
* [ "Please steal our children"] , Bolt, "Herald Sun", March 14, 2008


* [ Rob Riley, CEO ALS 1990–1995 Telling Our Story ALSWA]
* [ Essay by Kenneth Maddock] Argues that the child removal policy was not genocidal
* [ "Why are we not so sorry?"] by Australian League of Rights
* [ Home page of the Kimberley Stolen Generation Aboriginal Corporation]
* [ Biographical Entry - The Australian Dictionary of Biography Online]
* [ Sue Gordon becomes a force for her people]
* [ Fremantle Arts Centre Press - My Place by Sally Morgan]
* [ History News Network article on Rabbit Proof Fence and Sister Kates]
* [ "Genocide in Australia" by Colin Tatz, AIATSIS Research Discussion Papers No 8]
* [ Journey of Healing: Rabbit Proof Fence]

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • Stolen Generations — Der Begriff Gestohlene Generationen (oder auch Stolen Generations) bezeichnet verschiedene Generationen von Kindern der australischen Ureinwohner (Aborigines), die von der australischen Regierung aus ihren Familien entfernt wurden. Die… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • stolen generations — Aboriginal children who were taken from their families and placed in institutions or fostered with white families from 1883 to 1969. I hope this film will be a turning point in Australians awareness of the complex and painful issues surrounding… …   Australian idioms

  • stolen generations — /stoʊlən dʒɛnəˈreɪʃənz/ (say stohluhn jenuh rayshuhnz) plural noun (sometimes upper case) (in Australia) generations of Indigenous children who were removed from their families and communities, by government or non government agencies, in order… …   Australian-English dictionary

  • Generations Volees — Générations volées L enlèvement des enfants installé en 2003 sur la grande horloge du Queen Victoria Building à Sydney, oeuvre de Chris Cook. L expression « Générations volées » (Stolen Generations ou Stolen Children), utilisée parfois… …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Générations Volées — L enlèvement des enfants installé en 2003 sur la grande horloge du Queen Victoria Building à Sydney, oeuvre de Chris Cook. L expression « Générations volées » (Stolen Generations ou Stolen Children), utilisée parfois au singulier… …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Stolen (play) — Stolen is a play by Australian playwright Jane Harrison. It is based upon the lives of five indigenous people who dealt with the issues for forceful removal by the Australian government.Plot Stolen tells the story of five Aboriginal children, who …   Wikipedia

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  • Stolen Generation — Der Begriff Gestohlene Generationen (oder auch Stolen Generations) bezeichnet verschiedene Generationen von Kindern der australischen Ureinwohner (Aborigines), die von der australischen Regierung aus ihren Familien entfernt wurden. Die… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • stolen children — /ˈstoʊlən tʃɪldrən/ (say stohluhn childruhn) plural noun (in Australia) members of the stolen generations of Indigenous children …   Australian-English dictionary

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