Today marks 15 years since Kevin Rudd delivered the Apology Speech to all the Stolen Generations. The Stolen Generations refers to Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander people who were separated from their family, Community, culture, and country. ‘Separated’ can mean they were forcibly removed or taken under government laws that sought to ‘assimilate’ Aboriginal people or raise them to be the same as white people and deny our culture. Many children were removed to institutions such as children’s homes or orphanages or were fostered to non-Aboriginal families.
Please watch the Apology in full here.
National Inquiry into the Separation of Aboriginal Children from Their Families
In 1995 the Federal Attorney-General launched the National Inquiry into the Separation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children from heir Families. This Inquiry was conducted by the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission (HREOC). This was the first official inquiry into the Stolen Generations. It aimed to: “Trace and report on past laws, practises and policies that resulted in the separation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children from their families and the effects of those laws, practises and policies.”
Over two years, the National Inquiry took oral and written testimony from over 500 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people across Australia. They also took testimonies from Indigenous organisations, foster parents, State and Territory Government representatives, church representatives, other non-government agencies, former mission and government employees and individual members of the community.
For many of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who gave evidence to the Inquiry, it was the first time they had been able to share their story and their pain in an official investigation.
In April 1997, the Commission handed down the report – Bringing them Home: Report of the National Inquiry into the Separation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children from Their Families. There were 54 recommendations made in the report. These included:
- That reparations be made to members of the Stolen Generations including rehabilitation and monetary compensation (payment).
- That non-government agencies such as churches acknowledge their roles and make formal apologies.
- That the history of the Stolen Generations and the continuing effects on survivors and the Community be taught in primary and secondary schools.
- That professionals working with the Aboriginal Community receive training about the history and effects of forcible removal.
- That governments establish support services for Aboriginal people seeking to find their families.
The Prime Minister at the time of the release of the Bringing them Home report, John Howard, had consistently refused to make an apology to the Stolen Generations. Following his election win in 2007, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd committed to making the apology in his first year in office. As we all know now this occurred in the Australian Parliament in Canberra on 13 February 2008.
2017 marked 20 years since the Bringing Them Home Report was released and to commemorate the anniversary the Healing Foundation released Bringing Them Home 20 years on: An action plan for healing. The report showed that despite two decades passing, the majority of recommendations in the report had not yet been implemented and the effects were still being felt.
This new report found that the trauma and distress felt by members of the Stolen Generation have also affected their children, grand-children, and great-grandchildren. This is commonly described as intergenerational trauma – where the trauma is passed down from generation to generation.
While the apology was a significant moment in our history there is still a lot of work to be done to heal the pain caused by the forced removals of the Stolen Generations.
Please watch the Bringing Them Home Report Documentary here.
As part of our Reconciliation Action Plan, Mercy Community has committed to truth telling and sharing of information that helps to inform people of hour history. The resources below are great options for you to access and learn more, but also discuss in your own teams and consider the impact on the work we do and people we support.
- Rabbit-Proof Fence (2002): A film that tells the story of three Aboriginal girls who escape after being taken from their homes to be trained as domestic servants and set off on a journey across the outback.
- Servant or Slave (2016 TV Movie): Bringing to light the heartbreaking experiences of Rita Wright, Rita Wenberg, Violet West, Adelaide Wenberg and Valerie Linow, Servant or Slave is a film about the pursue of justice of Stolen Generations members.
- Kanyini (2006): This documentary is based on the life and philosophy of Bob Randall, an Elder of the Yankunytjatjara people of Uluru in Central Australia. The full documentary can be viewed here.
- First Australians: Stolen Generations SBS: This episode of the famous documentary series directed by Rachel Perkins shows the sad story of the Stolen Generations from an Aboriginal perspective.
- After the Apology (2017): The rate of Aboriginal child removal has increased since the apology to the Stolen Generations in 2008. This documentary shares the stories of people affected by these ongoing removals and those fighting to stop it and keep Aboriginal children in Aboriginal care.
- Stolen Generations Resource Kit for Teachers and Students by the Healing Foundation.
- Link-Up (Qld): A First Nations Peak Agency that has been operating since 1984 offering Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people the chance to reconnect with family and understand their identity. They are not-for profit and provide services for no cost.
Some of the above was sourced from Deadly Story.