Meeting the needs of the Stolen Generations


Who are the Stolen Generations?

The Stolen Generations are people of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander descent who as children were taken from their families by federal, state and territory government agencies and church missions under policies in place from the mid-1800s to the 1970s. Children were placed in institutions, training farms and schools, in foster care, or were adopted out. In many cases, children lost their names, language, culture and identity.

These policies caused major losses of cultural knowledge, tradition and connection to country, with lasting effects on the wellbeing and identity of members of the Stolen Generations and their descendants.

While precise figures on the numbers of Stolen Generations are not available, information gathered from the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Survey (NATSISS) in 2002 and 2008 suggests that 10 per cent of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population identify as being removed from their family.

The Apology

On 13 February 2008, the Australian Government offered the Apology to Australia’s Indigenous Peoples in recognition of the past mistreatment of all Indigenous peoples, and particularly the profound grief, suffering and loss inflicted on the Stolen Generations. 

You can order a poster of the Apology free of charge from National Mailing & Marketing on 1800 050 009, 8.30am to 5.00pm AEST, Monday to Friday.

Days of Significance

Aboriginal organisations and communities, schools, government departments and other organisations conduct events to commemorate two days of significance:  the Anniversary of the Apology (13 February) and National Sorry Day (26 May).

The Anniversary of the Apology celebrates the Australian Government’s Apology to Australia’s Apology to Australia’s Indigenous Peoples, and in particular to the Stolen Generations as a major step forward.  National Sorry Day is a day of remembrance and memorial highlighting the impact of past forcible removal policies on the Stolen Generations, their families and communities.

Stolen Generations’ particular needs

The National Sorry Day Committee and the National Stolen Generations Alliance advise that in their experience members of the Stolen Generations and their descendants are far more likely to have been arrested or charged with an offence, to have been in contact with the child protection system and to have experienced a far higher burden of ill health, including mental health problems. For instance, the 1991 Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody found that 43 of the 99 people whose deaths were investigated had been separated from their families in childhood.

Policy makers and service providers should be aware of the special needs of members of the Stolen Generations. Some members of the Stolen Generations find it traumatising to repeat their story. Therefore policy makers and service providers, as part of reconciliation, should deepen their understanding of the Stolen Generations, by reading some of the resources listed here and undertaking cultural awareness training.

Working with members of the Stolen Generations requires a sympathetic understanding of the mistreatment and loss they experienced during childhood and how this impacts on them as adults.  Many children were lonely, neglected, subjected to punishment and abused. As a result, many individuals may not trust service providers to look after their best interests. For example, an elderly member of the Stolen Generations might find entering a nursing home a very traumatic experience.

It is also worth bearing in mind that some members of the Stolen Generations have no birth certificate or had their birth name changed so will often have difficulty answering standard identity questions or providing proof of identity.

Stolen Generations Working Partnership

The Stolen Generations Working Partnership is made up of ten Australian Government agencies and the two national Stolen Generations organisations – the National Sorry Day Committee and the National Stolen Generations Alliance. It provides a platform for the Government and the Stolen Generations to work together to respond to priority issues.

Stolen Generations services and stakeholders

Stolen Generations services include:

  • The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Healing Foundation supports culturally strong, locally run community healing services around Australia, and funds education and research on healing. It was established in 2009, on the first anniversary of the Apology.
     
  • Link-Up services provide a range of services to members of the Stolen Generations, their families, and foster and adoptive families, including family tracing and counselling. The Australian Government established these services in response to the 1997 Bringing Them Home report (see Publications).
     
  • Marumali (meaning ‘to put back together’) is a training organisation that runs courses to help people understand the unique experiences of Stolen Generations.

Other stakeholders include:

Timeline

The following are a few significant dates in the history of the Stolen Generations:

1800s - 1970s - Removal policies and practices in operation
1937 - ‘Assimilation’ is adopted as national policy at the first Commonwealth/State conference on ‘native welfare’.
1991 - The Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody presents its report to the Commonwealth Government. It finds that of the 99 deaths it investigated, 43 were of people who were separated from their families as children.
1992 - then Prime Minister the Hon Paul Keating MP delivers the ‘Redfern Speech’ on 10 December. The speech acknowledged the suffering of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, with specific reference to the forced removal of children.
1997 - Bringing them home – Report of the National Inquiry into the Separation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children from Their Families tabled on 26 May. Published by the Australian Human Rights Commission, it is available on the Commission’s website along with related information and publications.
2000 - Bridge walks in Reconciliation held around Australia, including 300,000 crossing the Sydney Harbour Bridge
2008 - Apology to Australia’s Indigenous Peoples on 13 February. A video and transcript of the Apology is available on Australia.gov.au. More information is also available on FaHCSIA’s website.
2010 - The Stolen Generations Working Partnership launched on National Sorry Day

Useful websites

http://www.health.gov.au/bringingthemhome
Link Up services provide family tracing, reunions and counselling for members of the Stolen Generations. Social and emotional wellbeing counselling services provides counselling support for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, prioritising members of the Stolen Generations.

This website includes information on the Program as well as a handbook for Link Up service providers.

Stolen Generations’ Testimonies website
Launched in early 2012, the website captures poignant video testimonies of individual members of the Stolen Generations.

Bringing Them Home oral history project

The National Library of Australia’s online collection of more than 190 interviews with people involved in or affected by child removals. The interviews were recorded between 1998 and 2002.

Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies

The Institute has information on proof of Aboriginality and tracing Aboriginal family history.

Reconciliation Australia

Reconciliation Australia has a range of useful fact sheets, including on the Stolen Generations.

http://www.abc.net.au/indigenous/special_topics/stolen_generations/

The ABC’s Indigenous website has a page with material about the Stolen Generations and many links to other sites.

www.indigenous.gov.au

A portal for news, stories and information, the  website showcases  achievements and priorities in relation to the Government’s commitment to Closing the Gap. It often publishes feature stories on Stolen Generations.

www.Australia.gov.au

The Government website Australia.gov.au has a page on Sorry Day and the Stolen Generations.

Publications

  • Bringing them home report educational materials are available on the Australian Human Rights Commission website. These include a timeline and Us Taken-Away Kids, a magazine commemorating the 10th anniversary of the report’s publication.
     
  • The Stolen Generations Newsletter is published routinely by FaHCSIA. It includes news from major Stolen Generations stakeholders as well as recent events and other useful information. You can subscribe or unsubscribe via our online subscription list.
     
  • Between Two WorldsPublished by Connecting Home (www.connectinghome.org.au) this booklet provides insight into how agencies and individuals can provide support to Stolen Generations. It can be ordered by phoning (03) 8679 0777 and costs $10.00 plus postage and handling.
     
  • Second Step—Engaging students with the Stolen Generations: A resource for Victorian teachers – also published by Connecting Home, this resource is designed to equip teachers with the knowledge to teach the Victorian history of the Stolen Generations in Victorian schools. It is also available on (03) 8679 0777.
     
  • Stolen Generations Educationexamines the experiences of Stolen Generations in Queensland in the context of culture and social and emotional wellbeing. It is publishedbyLink-Up Queensland and is available from their website for $25 plus postage.

Contact FaHCSIA

Email: stolengenerations@dss.gov.au
Mail:
Interpreters, Stolen Generations, Culture section
PO Box 7576
Canberra Mail Centre, ACT 2610

Related information

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