Today was a very special day for Australia. This morning in parliament and broadcast live across the nation, the Primeminister apologised to the Aboriginal People, and the Stolen Generations for the systematic removal of children from their families for the eradication of the culture, language and identity as a governmental policy until the 1970's.
There is a misconception among many people who believe that this was done because the children were being neglected or abused, and while that may or may not have occurred in some of the situations the facts are that there were official governmental policies to remove children to eradicate the aboriginal "problem"
Brisbane's Telegraph newspaper reported in May 1937,
Mr Neville [the Chief Protector of WA] holds the view that within oneBy the 1930s Neville had refined his ideas of integrating Indigenous people into non-Indigenous society. His model was a biological one of `absorption' or `assimilation', argued in the language of genetics. Unlike the ideology of racial purity that emerged in Germany from eugenics, according to which `impure races' had to be prevented from `contaminating' the pure Aryan race, Neville argued the advantages of `miscegenation' between Aboriginal and white people.
hundred years the pure black will be extinct. But the half-caste problem was
increasing every year. Therefore their idea was to keep the pure blacks
segregated and absorb the half-castes into the white population. Sixty years
ago, he said, there were over 60,000 full-blooded natives in Western Australia.
Today there are only 20,000. In time there would be none. Perhaps it would take
one hundred years, perhaps longer, but the race was dying. The pure blooded
Aboriginal was not a quick breeder. On the other hand the half-caste was. In
Western Australia there were half-caste families of twenty and upwards. That
showed the magnitude of the problem (quoted by Buti 1995 on page 35).
The key issue to Neville was skin colour. Once `half-castes' were sufficiently white in colour they would become like white people. After two or three generations the process of acceptance in the non-Indigenous community would be complete, the older generations would have died and the settlements could be closed.
The local protector of NSW, James Isdell, supported the mission's concern to rescue `waifs and strays from the bad contaminating influence of natives' camps'.
The half-caste is intellectually above the aborigine, and it is the duty ofIn 1927 Dr Cecil Cook was appointed Chief Protector and Chief Medical Officer of NT. He was the first full-time Chief Protector since 1914. Cook was preoccupied with the continuing increase in the numbers of mixed descent children, foreseeing `a danger that half-castes would become a numerically preponderant under-class, in conflict with the white population of the north' (Markus 1990 page 92). Cook's solution was similar to that proposed by Chief Protector Neville in WA, namely, the absorption of people of mixed descent.
the State that they be given a chance to lead a better life than their mothers.
I would not hesitate for one moment to separate any half-caste from its
aboriginal mother, no matter how frantic her momentary grief might be at the
time. They soon forget their offspring (quoted by Dr Christine Choo submission
385 on page 14).
"Generally by the fifth and invariably by the sixth generation, all nativethe Governor-General stated in August 1996,
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 ... The
Australian native is the most easily assimilated race on earth, physically and
mentally" (quoted by Markus 1990 on page 93).
It should, I think, be apparent to all well-meaning people that trueONe thing I feel strongly about is that the policies regarding the Aboriginal people were not to protect the children from harm so much as protect the purity of the European race. What happened in Australia to the Stolen Generations is Genocide
reconciliation between the Australian nation and its indigenous peoples is not
achievable in the absence of acknowledgment by the nation of the wrongfulness of
the past dispossession, oppression and degradation of the Aboriginal peoples.
That is not to say that individual Australians who had no part in what was done
in the past should feel or acknowledge personal guilt. It is simply to assert
our identity as a nation and the basic fact that national shame, as well as
national pride, can and should exist in relation to past acts and omissions, at
least when done or made in the name of the community or with the authority of
The present plight, in terms of health, employment,
education, living conditions and self-esteem, of so many Aborigines must be
acknowledged as largely flowing from what happened in the past. The
dispossession, the destruction of hunting fields and the devastation of lives
were all related. The new diseases, the alcohol and the new pressures of living
were all introduced. True acknowledgment cannot stop short of recognition of the
extent to which present disadvantage flows from past injustice and oppression
Genocide is defined by the International Criminal Court and the United Nations as,
... any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole orI am glad that our government has acknowledged this, and I applaud the Labour government for following through on the Bringing Them Home Report Working and living in the Redfern community and growing up on the south coast of NSW where there were numerous children's homes has deepened my respect for the Aboriginal People and the struggles they go though. I hope, as the Prime Minister said that the apology given today will help remove a great stain from the nation's soul and in the true spirit of reconciliation to open a new chapter in the history of this great land Australia.
in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such: a. killing
members of the group; b. causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group; c. deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to
bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part; d. imposing measures
intended to prevent births within the group; e. forcibly transferring children
of the group to another group (article II).
I pray that we will learn to give every person a fair go, regardless of the colour, creed, or gender. I pray that those who have been sceptical about this apology will change their minds. I pray for those who have been touched by these policies and grown up hurt and lonely and confused, for those who were abused, beaten, demoralised and isolated. I pray that you will have peace, and that this apology would start to mend the wounds in your hearts.