Stolen Generation Essay Ideas
Detail of the ‘Great Australian Clock’, Queen Victoria Building, Sydney. Note that the artist confined Aboriginal men to the painted background, seemingly ignorant of the situation. You can view the clock from the highest level inside the building.
Tip: Get free Stolen Generations postcards to send to your friends!
One of the darkest chapters of Australian history was the forced removal of Aboriginal children from their families. Children as young as babies were stolen from their families to be placed in girls and boys homes, foster families or missions. At the age of 18 they were ‘released’ into white society, most scarred for life by their experiences.
These Aboriginal people are collectively referred to as the ‘Stolen Generations’ because several generations were affected.
Many Aboriginal people are still searching for their parents and siblings.
Watch this 8-minute video from Australian Screen that summarised the key points of the Stolen Generations:
I feel our childhood has been taken away from us and it has left a big hole in our lives. —Jennifer, personal story in the Bringing Them Home Report
A guide to the Stolen Generations
Define ‘Stolen Generations’
The term “Stolen Generations” is used for Aboriginal people forcefully taken away (stolen) from their families between the 1890s and 1970s, many to never to see their parents, siblings or relatives again. Because the period covers many decades we speak of “generations” (plural) rather than “generation”.
Why were Aboriginal children stolen?
This is the most burning question for members of the Stolen Generations. In removing their children white people stole Aboriginal people’s future. Language, tradition, knowledge, dances and spirituality could only live if passed on to their children. In breaking this circle of life white people hoped to end Aboriginal culture within a short time and get rid of “the Aboriginal problem”.
In the early 20th century under the assimilation policy white Australians thought Aboriginal people would die out. In three generations, they thought, Aboriginal genes would have been ‘bred out’ when Aboriginal people had children with white people.
“It was a presumption for many years that we girls would grow up and marry nice white boys,” says Aboriginal woman Barbara Cummings, a member of the Stolen Generations . “We would have nice fairer children who, if they were girls, would marry white boys again and eventually the colour would die out. That was the original plan - the whole removal policy was based on the women because the women could breed.”
Adult Aboriginal people resisted efforts to be driven out of towns by simply coming back. But children taken away were much easier to control.
I grew up feeling alone, a black girl in a white world, and I resented them for trying to make me white but they couldn't wash away thousands of years of dreaming.—Aunty Rhonda Collard, member of the Stolen Generations 
Aboriginal children who were taken away also fed the insatiable demand for station workers and domestic servants. Without these cheap, and often unpaid, labourers white Australians wouldn’t have been able to build the wealth and infrastructure that helped them prosper. This is where the Stolen Generations and the stolen wages become one story.
Authorities also took children away pretending that Aboriginal parents would neglect them. There is evidence, however, that kids were malnourished or starving because Aboriginal people were not paid the full wages they were owed .
Reasons why Aboriginal girls were taken away (in %). These statistics list the ‘reasons’ for forcibly removing Aboriginal girls from their families. “Other” reasons include “being female on an Aboriginal reserve” and simply because of being “Aboriginal”. 
Which children were taken away?
Authorities targeted mainly children of mixed descent, i.e. what they called ‘half-caste’ Aboriginal children (caution, this is a derogative term!). It was thought these Aboriginal children could be assimilated more easily into white society.
During this time many children were not told that they were Aboriginal and discovered this much later in their lives. So-called ‘A grade’ babies were not obviously Aboriginal and were fostered out without telling their new parents their heritage. For ‘B grade’ babies, one could tell their Aboriginal heritage if knowing “what to look out for”. 
Aboriginal author Sally Morgan wrote about her experiences in her book ‘My Place’.
What happened to the stolen children?
Often babies were stolen at birth, and their mother given no chance of seeing them for the first time. They were called ‘Blanket Babies’ because nurses covered them with a blanket to hide them from their mothers. 
The stolen children were raised on missions or by foster parents, totally cut off from their Aboriginality. They were severely punished when caught talking their Aboriginal language. Some children never learned anything traditional and received little or no education. Instead the girls were trained to be domestic servants, the boys to be stockmen.
Many of the stolen girls and boys were physically, emotionally and sexually abused. Many babies born to girls raped by white men were also taken away from them, sometimes as soon as they were born.
There is no black or white, we are both of those. I am black and I am white. We were the product of white men raping our traditional women. We were an embarrassment. No-one wanted us. They just wanted us out of the way. —Zita Wallace, taken aged eight years 
Boys and girls were brought into separate institutions which they (and some experts) would later compare with German concentration camps and the holocaust. Many tried to run away but few succeeded. Many never saw their parents again or were told they were orphans.
We were each handed a pair of pyjamas with a number Mr Borland, the manager, had given us earlier printed on the pocket, and a shirt and pair of shorts also. I was number 33. Not Bill. Not even Simon. Just number 33. —Bill Simon, taken away aged 10 
Institutions in NSW where stolen Aboriginal children were more or less imprisoned to be trained as domestics or labourers.
The most infamous institutions are following. Be careful when you mention them to Aboriginal people, a lot of hurt and bad memories might come up.
- Bomaderry Children’s Home (United Aborigines Mission) operated from 24 May 1908 to 1981 (59 Beinda Street, Bomaderry).
- Cootamundra Aboriginal Girls’ Home (Cootamundra Domestic Training Home for Aboriginal Girls), originally a hospital, operated from 1911 to 1969. About 1,200 girls were placed in Cootamundra during this time. It celebrated its centenary on 11 August 2012.
- Kinchela Aboriginal Boys’ Home (Kinchela Training Institution) which moved to Kempsey in 1924. About 600 Aboriginal boys passed through Kinchela before it was closed in 1970. www.kinchelaboyshome.org.au
- Mittagong Boys’ Home
- Parramatta Girls’ Home which operated from 1887 until 1986. About 30,000 girls were locked up during that time. The home was also knows as the Industrial School for Girls, Girls Training School and Girls Training Home. Parragirls is a network of more than 350 women who lived in the home. Parramatta Girls is a play by Alana Valentine that is part of the HSC syllabus since 2010, contributing to the survivor’s healing process.
- Kahlin Compound, Darwin
- The Bungalow, Alice Springs
- Box Hill Boys Home, Melbourne
Many of those who were stolen established links with the area where they stayed for many years. After they left the institutions these people settled in the area.
However, the women and men also passed on the kinds of abuse they suffered to their own children (intergenerational trauma).
Sometimes at night we'd cry with hunger. We had to scrounge in the town dump, eating old bread, smashing tomato sauce bottles, licking them. —Bringing Them Home - Community Guide, children's experiences
Aerial photo of the former Cootamundra Girls Home. The property is near 39 Rinkin Street, Cootamundra, NSW 2590.
How many children were stolen?
That is not easy to answer. Few records of stolen children were kept, some were deliberately destroyed or just lost. Some administrations tried to tout their “successful assimilation” of Aboriginal people by deliberately understating Aboriginal numbers, thus distorting data.
Hence numbers can only be roughly estimated. It is estimated that between 1883 and 1969 more than 6,200 children were stolen in NSW alone .
A 1994 survey by the Australian Bureau of Statistics stated that one in every ten (10%) Aboriginal people aged over 25 had been removed from their families in childhood , a figure which seems to be confirmed by research since the Bringing Them Home Report . Australia-wide numbers are in the tens of thousands.
If you apply this proportion to the 2011 Census figures of the Aboriginal population you’ll get around 14,700 Stolen Generations members for that year. Considering those with immediate family who had been removed, an additional 160,000 Aboriginal people are directly affected by the policies of the Stolen Generations. 
The [South Australian] government was unable to say how many Stolen Generation people live in the state. —Statement in a 2007 article about the first court-ordered compensation ruling 
When were the children stolen?
Towards the end of the 19th century authorities started to take children away without a legal framework. A framework was established in 1909 with the Aborigines Protection Act.
During the 1960s the child removal process slowed down but continued well into the 1970s. Some of the schools and missions who held the Stolen Generations did not close until the early 1980s (e.g. Bomaderry Children’s Home in NSW ).
What were the effects on the stolen children?
The effects on the stolen children and their families were profound and are ongoing.
Aboriginal people suffer from many social and personal problems including mental illness, violence, alcoholism and welfare dependance, but there are many more issues members of the Stolen Generations suffer from.
Is there any official documentation of the Stolen Generations?
On 26 May 1997 the landmark Bringing Them Home report was tabled in Federal Parliament. The report was the result of a national inquiry that investigated the forced removal of Aboriginal children from their families.
The report was a vital step in the healing journey of many Stolen Generations members. It was the first time their stories were acknowledged in public. It was also the first time it was formally reported that what governments did to these children was inhumane and the impact has been lifelong.
The full report is available at the Australian Human Rights Commission.
You can also watch the Commission’s 30-minute documentary about the separation of Aboriginal children from their families.
More children are being taken today than during the Stolen Generations period
- Number of Aboriginal children in out-of-home care in 1997 when the Bringing Them Home report was tabled in Federal Parliament .
- Number of Aboriginal children in out-of-home care in June 2016 .
Children continue to be taken from their families. The Department of Community Services (DoCS) has the authority to remove children from their families if they were “at risk of significant harm”.
The injustices of the past must never, never happen again.—former prime minister, Kevin Rudd, in his apology to the Stolen Generations in 2008.
If you don't already know, the Stolen Generation scenario still applies today and has been here for a long time and will continue to be here.—Paul Ralph, CEO of KARI Aboriginal Resources Inc 
About 60 children are being taken away every month by child protection services, says Elder Djiniyini Gondarra, who represents 8,000 Yolngu people of east Arnhem Land . “Children are being taken away from us at numbers not seen since the Stolen Generations.”
Indeed, since the National Apology to the Stolen Generations in 2008 the number of Aboriginal children in care has increased by 65% .
Aboriginal children are
- almost 8 times more likely to be the subject of departmental intervention,
- 9 times more Aboriginal children are on care and protection orders , and
- 10 times more Aboriginal children are in out-of-home care than non-Aboriginal kids .
The current generation may one day grow up to say they, too, had been removed from their families.
In Victoria, only about 60% of Koorie children in care remained connected to their family and culture .
Fact In 2012, Olga Havnen, a senior Northern Territory government official, revealed that more than $80m was spent on the surveillance of families and the removal of children compared with just $500,000 on supporting the same impoverished families. Her warning of a second Stolen Generation led to her sacking. 
Why are they still taken away?
Intergenerational effects of separation from family and culture are partly to blame: parents stolen as kids are passing on this trauma to their own children.
But many government workers who decide about removing children seem to have difficulty telling neglect from poverty.
Larrakia elder Dr Christine Fejo-King was a consultant to the NT Royal Commission into the Protection and Detention of Children in the Northern Territory. She found neglect was the biggest reason why Aboriginal children were removed from their families, but the system was confusing the effects of absolute poverty with the concept of neglect. 
“There’s a difference between absolute poverty which is often then equated to neglect as opposed to actual life-threatening situations for that child as a result of the people that they’re living with in an unsafe place,” she said.
Aboriginal children are mostly removed for ‘neglect’ or ‘emotional abuse’. I have seen first hand how these judgements are made on a racist basis, or arise directly from the extreme poverty faced by families.—Padraic Gibson, Senior Researcher, Jumbunna Indigenous House of Learning, University of Technology, Sydney 
Homework: Three generations fearing for their kids
Here is what Aboriginal mother Kelly Briggs said about her own fears, those of her mum and of her grandmother :
“What happens if the small amount of work I have gained dries up [...]? What if money again becomes so tight that shoes, uniforms, excursions, lunches or transport [...] become issues that keep my kids from turning up at school on occasion? What exactly is the scope of these truancy officers? Do they give my kids lunch? Buy them uniforms? Will my name be added to some department of community services list somewhere? Will there be a mark upon my name that gives rise to visits from people who can remove my children from my care?
“I spoke honestly and frankly with my mother about my worries. She was amazed that this is still happening [...]. We spoke of her own mother’s obsession with cleanliness, which sprang from her fear of the dreaded ‘welfare man’, a government employee who could come to your house and demand to be let inside to ensure your house was clean, that there was adequate food available, that the children were going to school.
“She then went on to tell me about her own fears when she was raising me and my siblings: the absolute terror she felt when she had to collect food vouchers of some nameless person swooping in to take us kids off her because she was facing hardship after my father passed away. The tremble in her voice as she recounted this broke my heart.”
- Why is Aunty Kelly fearing her kids can be taken away?
- Find out how much Kelly has to pay for the items she has listed.
- Find one word that represents the effect the women’s worries had on their lives.
- In which years were the women in Kelly’s family worried about their children?
- Research what rights the “welfare man” had, which government agency was allowed to take kids “facing hardship”, and what can happen today if kids don’t turn up at school.
- With the background of Kelly’s story above, explain what she said below.
In the back of my mind, I always hear the voice that says "don’t ever let anyone know you’re doing it tough, because they will take your kids from you".—Kelly Briggs, Aboriginal mother 
The new Stolen Generation is much larger
A Special Commission of Inquiry into the Department of Community Services found that in March 2008 there were 4,458 Aboriginal children in out-of-home care, 4 times as many Aboriginal children as were in foster homes, institutions or missions in 1969, during the Stolen Generations . 8% of Aboriginal people aged 15 years and over were removed from their natural families in 2008 .
By 2014, almost 35% of all children in care were Aboriginal. But Aboriginal children were making up only 4.4% of Australia’s total child population. 
From February 2001 to August 2007 the number of children reported to DoCS increased by 300% to 55,303 .
In Queensland, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children represent 6.3% of the under-18s, yet in 2006 they made up over 25% of those in out-of-home care . In 2011 in New South Wales, 33% of Aboriginal children and young people were in the care system, and the national figure was 36% .
In Western Australia, 46% of children in state care were Aboriginal in 2011, in regional areas “nearly 100%” were thought to be Aboriginal .
Filmmaker John Pilger investigates this new stolen generation in Utopia. “The theft is now higher than at any time in the last century,” he found. In mid-1997 there were 2,785 Aboriginal children in out-of-home care across Australia. By mid-2012 there were 13,299 - almost a five-fold increase.
Pilger notes the NT government spent $80 million in one year removing children but just $500,000 supporting impoverished families. 
If you don't fix the underlying issues—unemployment, housing—that contribute to child protection, Aboriginal children will continue to be removed from their families. —Julie Tommy Walker, Aboriginal leader and Innawonga woman 
If Aboriginal children are put into foster care, they should at least be put into other Aboriginal families. These children’s safety is “always grounded in their culture”  because they need to remain connected to the communities and be sure and strong in their cultural identity.
But in 2013, in the Northern Territory, about 66% of children are taken away from their culture and community. To no surprise, one-third of the Aboriginal children removed to non-Aboriginal homes have told the government they had lost all contact with family .
The madness of the past is still the cruelty of today.—Jeff McMullen, journalist 
Only one day a year
An Aboriginal Perth father can only see his two daughters for what equates to one day a year .
His two children have been removed from their mother’s care by the Department of Child Protection (DCP) and placed with non-Aboriginal carers for 4 years.
The father lodged a complaint saying that the department failed to let the children know about their family and culture. He was only allowed to see his daughters one hour every fortnight which “equates to one day a year”.
The man’s mother was a member of the Stolen Generations. “[I ] saw my mother and all her siblings taken from my grandparents, and my grandparents taken from my great grandparents,” he said.
Today’s numbers of stolen children are so high that in January 2014 Aboriginal grandmothers from Gunnedah in northern NSW formed the group Grandmothers Against Removals in an effort to highlight the process of removal used by the New South Wales Department of Children’s Services.
Was it legal to steal Aboriginal children?
With all the pain and trauma caused by the child removal policies one has to ask: Was this legal? Didn’t these laws violate basic human rights?
These questions were put to Australia’s High Court in 1997 when two members of the Stolen Generations sued the Commonwealth (Kruger vs Commonwealth). They argued that the laws breached basic fundamental human rights such as the right to due process before the law, equality before the law, freedom of movement and freedom of religion.
In a “dramatic demonstration of Australia’s lack of rights protection”  the High Court held that none of these rights were protected. We are not talking Aboriginal rights here—we are talking human rights!
In other words, it was perfectly legal for Australia’s government to forcibly remove Aboriginal children.
Australia’s failure to protect basic human rights falls hardest on the poor, the marginalised and the socioeconomic disadvantaged. That is, they fall hardest on Aboriginal people, families and communities.
Stolen Generation reunions
Members of the Stolen Generations yearn most to reunite with their lost loved ones. Sometimes family members find each other just in time, sometimes just a short time too late. Services which help people reunite need more funding.
We didn't find our family until I was 11 or 12. —Prof. Larissa Behrendt, Aboriginal barrister 
Stolen Generation member dies only months after reunion
A 107-year-old member of the Stolen Generations died only months after she was finally reunited with members of her original people in Port Hedland, Western Australia . Belinda Dann’s life is a sad example of many other members of the Stolen Generations, many of whom died broken-hearted because they never saw their loved ones again.
Belinda was six years old when she was taken from her mother. Along with sisters she was taken to Beagle Bay mission in north-western Australia. When they asked for their mother they were told she would come which she never did. She married as a teenager and moved to Port Hedland. She remembered her Aboriginal name but did not know who she was and where she came from.
By coincidence one of Belinda’s grandsons mentioned her Aboriginal name in a conversation with an Aboriginal girl who had heard of Belinda and was connected to her people. A 100-year-long search was over. Belinda met her people and, incredibly, started speaking in her native Aboriginal language again. Four months later she died.
We didn't know we were related. You find it out at 20 or 30, sitting in a pub drinking. —Richard Pittman, Stolen Generations member, taken aged four 
Re-union services need more funding
The main service members of the Stolen Generations can use to find loved ones is Link-Up (see below). But Link-Up needs more resources to work effectively . Reunions take too long to be organised, and once they had been, they were far too short, or people were unable to afford return visits.
Some Aboriginal people feel like being “stolen again” when they are unable to revisit their newly found family .
Healing members of the Stolen Generations
The hibiscus flower is a symbol for the Stolen Generations. It was chosen because its lilac colour denotes spiritual healing and compassion and for the fact that it is widespread, grows everywhere and is a survivor . Photo: butupa, Flickr
On 13 February 2009, one year after it apologised to the Stolen Generations, the Australian government promised to establish the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Healing Foundation.
The foundation is designed to deal with the “trauma experienced by all Aboriginal people as the after-effect of colonisation” , but with a particular focus on the Stolen Generations.
It won’t deliver healing services, instead it funds healing work, educates communities and social workers and evaluates healing programs to find out what works.
According to Aboriginal trauma and grief specialist Dr Greg Phillips, healing is “a spiritual process that includes recovery from addiction, therapeutic change and cultural renewal” .
Healing is not just another government program. It has taken many generations to get to this level of trauma and it will take quite a few to fully recover from it. —Dr Greg Phillips, Aboriginal trauma and grief specialist from the Waanyi people 
Many members of the Stolen Generations attend annual reunions where they meet fellow Aboriginal people to share their stories and experiences they endured as children in the institutions where they were raised. The Link-Up service (see bottom of this page) often supplies funding for these reunions. For many this is the start of their journey of healing.
Denying history: ‘Not stolen, but rescued’
A significant number of Australians disagreed with the apology delivered in February 2008 to the Stolen Generations by Prime Minister Kevin Rudd. Here are their main arguments:
- The Stolen Generations don’t exist. Some people simply and flatly deny that children were stolen. They want to see ‘proof’ and claim no-one could ‘find’ them. For example, journalist Andrew Bolt claimed the Stolen Generations were “a giant intellectual fraud with unforgivable consequences” and “no one has yet produced a single child who was stolen under a government policy to remove children just because they were Aboriginal and not because they needed help.” 
- Aboriginal children were ‘rescued’. Supporters claim that Aboriginal children were not stolen but ‘rescued’ from a family and community environment that was “rife with rape, incest, drug and/or alcohol abuse and insanitary living conditions” . The Aboriginal children were ‘given a chance’.
I've asked my granny if she thought she was rescued. She replied, "I didn't need rescuing from my mother's love."—Che Cockatoo-Collins 
- ‘We did not do it’. People who refuse to apologise to the Stolen Generations feel that they or their ancestors had no part in what happened, hence shared no responsibility for the pain caused.
- An apology leads to compensation claims. Many people fear that after the apology “a flood of compensation claims will be forthcoming” running to “millions of dollars” .
The “white stolen generations”
Did you know that in Australia there is another stolen generation, one which shares the pain and consequences? It’s called the “white stolen generation” to distinguish it from the Aboriginal stolen generation.
In the five decades up to 1982, the newborn babies of young, single women were forcibly removed from them for adoption, a practice sometimes called ‘baby farming’. Mothers were drugged, tethered to beds, not allowed to see their babies, told they were dead.  Many of these adoptions occurred after the mothers were sent away by their families due to the stigma associated with being pregnant and unmarried.
More than 250,000 white mothers lost their babies to forcible removal at birth by these past illegal adoption practices. Groups such as Adoption Loss Adult Support and Apology Alliance offer help and support.
Between 2010 and 2012 apologies were offered by Western Australia, South Australia, ACT, New South Wales, Victoria and Tasmania. Prime Minister Julia Gillard offered a national apology to those affected by forced adoptions in 2013.
“My birth father never knew I existed”
Here is the story of a member of the white stolen generation :
Both my parents were given up to adoption, as was I. In my case my mother, at the time aged 16, was forced by her adoptive mother to give me up. She had no say in the matter and it’s something that she had great difficulty dealing with for 42 years till the time that I tracked her down.
My birth father was never even told of my existence, and if not for a chance run-in with my mother ten years after my birth in Sydney would have never even known I existed. He was never asked for permission to give me up for adoption.
My birth mother’s adoptive family went to great lengths to hide the fact that their teenage daughter was pregnant. They sent her off to Auckland, NZ, to give birth to me then give me up.
It wasn’t until three years ago, when my birth father in Melbourne tracked me down, that I finally learnt the truth.
Stolen generations in other countries
Australia is not alone with its history of stolen children. Across the world are other countries with similar histories.
A military coup in 1976 brought one of Argentina’s “most brutal dictatorships” to power. The dictatorship took new-born babies away from their mothers during what is known as the “dirty war”. It was uses as an instrument of war, social engineering or political revenge. 
Courts established later that the theft of babies was a systematic plan. When the Junta’s hit squads abducted pregnant women they considered opponents to the regime, they imprisoned the women until they had given birth. Their babies were given to childless friends of the regime. Many mothers were then killed along with other prisoners.
Argentina’s Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo is a human rights organisation trying to find the stolen children. Founded in 1977, by 2016 it had helped find 120 of the more than 500 children kidnapped.
Families who violate China’s one-child policy face a constant threat of authorities illegally taking away their children.
Just like in Australia, some families say beatings and threats are used to force them into giving up their daughters. Others say they are tricked into signing away their parental rights .
Each town has a family-planning office, usually staffed by Communist Party cadres who have broad powers to order abortions and sterilisations. People who have additional babies can be fined up to 6 times their annual income.
Since the early 1990s, more than 80,000 Chinese children have been adopted abroad, most going to families in the United States. Officials are motivated by thousands of dollars that adoptive parents pay orphanages .
Since 2003, if people can’t pay their fines, officials would take away their babies.
An official’s statement is strikingly similar to what Australian officials told parents: ‘‘They’re better off with their adoptive parents than their birth parents,’’ says Wu Benhua, director of Zhenyuan’s civil affairs bureau.
It's too late. Your daughter has already gone to America.—Response Zhou Changqi got whose six-month-old daughter was taken in 2002 by family-planning officials in Guiyang 
Before Germany united in 1989, the German Democratic Republic’s intelligence service (“Stasi”) took away children of parents who eyed the West or had attempted to flee the communist state. Deemed unfit to bring up their kids “for the purpose of socialism” parents sometimes spent “half a lifetime searching” for them .
An estimated 1,000 families were torn apart by the GDR authorities. Forced adoptions could hit anyone considered “suspect”, for example, a mother staying home for her children—incompatible with socialist guidelines.
Hundreds of Germans are still searching for their children, parents or siblings .
Ireland & England
The film Philomena brought widespread attention to the unmarried Irish mothers forced to surrender their babies to the Catholic church.
Norway’s Child Protection Service, known as Barnevernet, is removing children from parents it deems unfit for parenting, and places them into foster care. Some of the young mothers had been reported – falsely – as mentally ‘ill’ by their parents in order to claim welfare payments, and the service then uses this information against them. 
About 1,500 children a year are removed from their parents. Between 2008 and 2013, emergency removals increased by 70%. While most of these cases are for valid reasons, a “growing number” of parents claim they happen without cause. Parents are told they “lack parenting skills”.
Research found that 20% of the removal system is not working well, says Einar Salvesen, a whistleblower who has previously worked as a consultant psychologist for Barnevernet.
Some families feel that racial intolerance is a “big part” of their experience. Other countries accused Barnevernet of stripping children of their cultural identity.
An organisation, The Change Factory, gives stolen children a voice by sharing their experiences and knowledge with policy makers.
It was revealed in 2011 that the theft of children, begun under Franco for ideological ends, had turned into a form of baby trafficking that continued into the 1990s, with the complicity of doctors and the church. 
From the early 1800s to the 1950s thousands of Swiss children who were orphaned, illegitimate or from impoverished families were sent to work on farms as cheap labour. Many children suffered abuse at the hands of their host families while authorities turned a blind eye.
The Foster Boy (“Der Verdingbub”), a 2011 movie and one of the most successful Swiss films between 2007 and 2013, deals with this shameful chapter in the history of a country that is so often seen in a positive light.
From 1926 to 1973, the Swiss government had a semi-official policy of institutionalising Yeniche parents and having their children adopted by more “normal” Swiss citizens, in an effort to eliminate Yeniche culture. About 590 children were taken from their parents and put into orphanages, mental institutions and even prisons. 
Children of the Open Road (1992), named after the government program, tracks these policies towards the Rom (gypsies).
Stolen Generations resources
Free Stolen Generations booklet
A must-read is the report by Peter Read, ‘The Stolen Generations - The removal of Aboriginal children in New South Wales 1883 to 1969’.
Published in 1981 it was then a ground-breaking first attempt to document the devastating consequences of the forced removal of Aboriginal children from their families.
The report’s chapters are: 2006: The return of the Stolen Generations, Introduction, A typical case, The laws regarding children, The number of children taken, Life in the homes, Employment, Fostering, Going home, The effects, Why did they do it?, Appendix.
The 34-page report comes with several black-and-white images and can be downloaded as a PDF file from the NSW Department of Aboriginal Affairs.
Free Bringing Them Home DVD
Free DVD: Bringing Them Home. You can order this DVD at the Human Rights Commission. It runs for 32 minutes and contains a moving documentary with and about members of the Stolen Generations.
The Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission, a government body, published a DVD in 1997. The free DVD is based on the Bringing Them Home Report which was released on the 26th May that year.
The DVD is a 32-minute documentary, interviewing Aboriginal people of the Stolen Generations and showing historical footage. It is a must-see for all interested in learning more and listening to the stories of Aboriginal people who were stolen. But be warned: The content is sometimes heartbreaking.
The first DVD is free, any further copy is just AUD 5. To order your copy send an email or letter to:
Human Rights & Equal Opportunity Commission
Level 8, Piccadilly Tower
133 Castlereagh Street
Sydney NSW 2000
Phone: 02 9284 9672
Fax: 02 9284 9611
Watch movies about the Stolen Generations
A very good movie which tells the story of three young girls taken away from their family is Rabbit-Proof Fence by Phillip Noyce.
Baz Luhrmann’s Australia also treats the Stolen Generations as a central theme of the movie.
The documentary Lousy Little Sixpence was the first film to tell shocked Australians the story of five girls stolen from their families.
Some short films by Aboriginal directors discuss Stolen Generations, e.g. Back Seat by Pauline Whyman or Bloodlines by Jacob Nash.
Or try the award-winning documentary Why me? - Stories from the Stolen Generations by Rick Cavaggion.
The film Children of the Open Road (1992, original title Kinder der Landstrasse) presents striking parallels between the Stolen Generations and Swiss government policies towards the Rom (gypsies) in the first half of the 20th century.
More movies about Aboriginal people or by Aboriginal directors
I was crying for the kids. It brought back personal memories for us. I was like him. I was like them. I was taken away.—Dorothy Beto, stolen aged 7 years, reacting to the movie Australia which tells about the Stolen Generations 
Teacher resource: 2 ways to teach about the Stolen Generations
When members of the Stolen Generations tell their stories in schools students are often in tears. Some stories might be too harsh for them.
Some teachers have found softer ways of teaching  which still show the full emotional impact the policies had on people.
- Role playing. Children role play, for example, “we’re going to take you to live with us because we think it’s better. How do you feel?”
- Tearing drawings. Students make a drawing of their family at home and include valued items such as pets or computers. The teacher then tells the story of stolen children and, while walking around the room, tears away part of each student’s drawing. A student could then talk about how they felt about their valuable work being ripped apart and how they would feel being ripped from their family.
Stolen Generations organisations
There are a few organisations helping Aboriginal people from the Stolen Generations.
National Sorry Day Committee (NSDC)
The community-based National Sorry Day Committee was formed in 1998 after the Bringing Them Home report recommended that a National Sorry Day be held each year on 26 May “to commemorate the history of forcible removals and its effects.”
The NDSC aims to achieve all 54 recommendations of the Bringing Them Home report, and its Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal supporters work together with Stolen Generations members, Aboriginal communities, government, social justice and community organisations to achieve this goal.
Founded in 1980 and based in New South Wales, Link-Up helps members of the Stolen Generations to find their relatives. It also offers counselling to newly reunited families.
Link-Up has offices in almost every Australian state. In South Australia from 1999 to 2007 Link-Up arranged 160 family reunions and brought together 4,915 people.
List of Australian Link-Up services
Link-Up caseworker advertisement. The position involves support and counselling work and requires a lot of travel . Note that Aboriginality is part of the qualification.
Family Link was established in 2009 to identify family and kin placements for Aboriginal children in foster care.
The service, funded by Link-Up, works with the Department of Community Services to place them with other family members when Aboriginal children cannot live safely with their parents.
While only 4% of NSW’s children are Aboriginal they make up 31% of all placements.
Hazelbrook, Blue Mountains, NSW 2779
Family Records Unit
The Family Records Unit helps Aboriginal people in NSW access records about themselves and their families, particularly members of the Stolen Generations.
The Unit is run by the Department of Aboriginal Affairs which is the custodian of the records of the Aborigines Welfare Board.
Family Records Unit
NSW Department of Aboriginal Affairs
Level 13, Tower B, Centennial Plaza
280 Elizabeth Street
Surry Hills, NSW 2010
Family Records Unit
Find and Connect
Find and Connect is a resource for the Forgotten Australians (all Australians who have been ‘in care’, including British Child Migrants and the Stolen Generations) who wish to find their history. It does not provide access to personal records, but helps individuals locate institutional records about them.
Find and Connect can help those of the Stolen Generations identify which institution(s) they received out-of-home ‘care’ in. For those wishing to find out more about their past it is then possible to find out where the institution’s records are kept and how to access them.
Between the years 1909 and 1969 children were taken from their mothers/families at all times of day. Not just any child was taken, only children of Aboriginal status or children with a little bit of Aboriginal status, half caste. “It is estimated that between 50,000 to 100,000 Indigenous children were taken from their families…” (Lecture). The government had decided that the mothers/families that were Indigenous Aborigines were not fit for raising a family. The government wanted to breed out the Aboriginal people. From that they wanted to breed out all the Aboriginal people. These Aboriginal children were known as the Stolen Generation.
The Stolen Generation was where tens of thousands of children were taken throughout the day and put into orphanages and other homes. They were put to work and the government attempted to eliminate the Aboriginal people. They wanted to wipe out the Aboriginal race which wold only leave Whites. “Under the White Australia and assimilation policies Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who were ‘not full blood’ were encouraged to become assimilated into the broader society so that eventually there would be no more Indigenous people left. At the time Indigenous people were seen as the inferior race” (Stolen Generations…). Even though the Stolen Generation lasted many decades it consisted of four main situations: the removal of the children, the bringing them home along with the impact it had on their lives, and the national apology.
Throughout the Stolen Generation the removal of the Aboriginal children happened every night. Mothers and their families were horrified at every moment knowing that their children might be taken away forever. Some mothers hide their children when they heard the government was coming into town. Children were being taken away at all hours. The government would raid a house to take away their children in the middle of the night. Children of all ages were taken. After the children were taken away from their families the government took them to different orphanages. One wonders how a government could do such a thing. “The removal policy was managed by the Aborginies Protection Board (APB). The APB was a government board established in 1909 with the power to remove children without parental consent and without a court order.
Children could be put into an institution or mission dormitory, fostered or adopted” (Stolen Generation). Usually when the children were put into a children’s home when they were young would get adopted or fostered soon after. Some children were bought for work and became maids for the families; however, they got paid very little and never were commended for their hard work. According to the Australian government website the children were expected to work at a very young age, they were only entitled to retain a small proportion of their meagre earnings as pocket money (Sorry Day…). Aunty Gloria Smith was taken by the police when she was twelve years old. She was immediately sent to Sydney to work. She claims she will never forget the names of who she worked for, Mrs. and Mr. Slander and their two daughters. She was a maid for the house, but they never appreciated the work she would do for them. Aunty viewed it as slavery. She did not get paid for her work.
Her older sister came to help her escape and she never went back, even though the police tried to take her back. Aunty Gloria is just one of many cases. Each and every individual that had been part of the Stolen Generation has a different story, no two are alike. During this time the boys and girls had different roles. Boys were sent to places like the Kinchela Aboriginal Boys Home and girls were sent to places like the Cootamundra Home. In the boy’s home the boys were often beat and put into cages like animals. One story of an Kinchela Inmate was “The bashing that I copped from the from the manager. He was a so-called manager who was supposed to manage the place and to protect us” (Lecture). In the girls home it was a “…Domestic Training Home for Aboriginal girls. It was maintained by the Aborigines Welfare Board until 1968. The girls were not allowed to remain in any contact with their families, and were later sent to work as domestic servants” (Lecture). Children were taken away from their families and most never knew who their parents were. Most forgot/never knew about their culture.
In the 1990’s there was an national inquiry into removing the Aboriginal children. This was the start to the Bringing Them Home Report.
The report outlined the devastating impact the child removal policies had on the children and their families. It found that many of the institutions and homes in which the children were places were very cruel and sexual and physical abuse of the children was common. It found that many of the people who managed the removals, including both the government and churches, abused their power and breached their supposed obligation as protectors and ‘carers’…. The report found that the practice of forced removal was highly traumatic not only for the children but also for their families. The policy broke important cultural, spiritual and family ties which crippled not only individuals, but whole families and even whole communities.
The report found that members of the Stolen Generations suffered higher rates of sexual abuse, maltreatment, dislocations of family life, poverty and hardship than other Aboriginal people…. The aim of the policy was to ‘breed out’ the Aboriginal race. In international law practices designed to destroy an entire race of people are known as genocide, and are forbidden under the 1948 Convention of Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. While many records have been lost, it has been estimated that between 1 in 10 and 3 in 10 Aboriginal children were forcibly removed between 1910 and 1970 (Stolen Generations…). The report provided heaps of information which exploited that the government and home owners abused and mistreated these children. This report was a good source to showing that they truly have done wrong to these people. They are people to, just because they are a different race does not mean you can try to breed them out.
With the help of this report, children were realized of their duties. Most were not able to go back to their families. A few reasons for this is that they did not know their culture and/or history of where they have came from and it would have been hard going back. Everything that they have been created life long negative consequences. According to Aunt Gloria Smith lots of Aboriginals have the misfortune to not have been able to know their families and that she was one of the few lucky ones that knew her mother and father were. The negative impacts these people had on changed them forever.
After the Bringing Them Home Report came out many people asked for an official apology from the government. This is the least the government could do after admitting to mistreating the Indigenous people for many decades. Aboriginals also asked for a financial compensation along with the national apology. “…Conservative Prime Minister John Howard and his government resolutely refused to make a national apology. They denied that there had ever been a Stolen Generation, arguing that the children had been rescued from physical and moral danger and that their treatment was humane by standards of the times, and rejected any notion of generational responsibility for practices sanctioned by previous governments.
There would be no compensation payments” (Haebich) Even though the Prime Minister John Howard did not want to make the apology many Australians supported the national apology. However, “…the prime minister passed a ‘Statement of Regret and Motion of Reconciliation’ in parliament” instead of doing the apology (Stolen Generations…). After the Bringing Them Home Report and the denied national apology, national Sorry Day was put into place on 26 May 1998. This day brought huge celebrations and festivities. One thing that was Sorry Books. Sorry Books were there for people to write about their suffering and what had happened to them during the Stolen Generations. This day became an annual event that has marches every year with many speakers. Although, “ in 2005 the National Sorry Day Committee renamed Sorry Day as a National Day of Healing for all Australians:‘The Day will focus on the healing needed throughout Australian society if we are to achieve reconciliation” (Sorry Day…).
Ten years later after the former Prime Minister denied to apologize, a new government was elected. The new Prime Minister Kevin Rudd promised to make an national apology to the Indigenous people of the Stolen Generation. “At the first parliament, on 13 February 2008 the new Prime Minister Kevin Rudd issued a national apology to the Stolen Generations on behalf of the Australian Government” (Lecture). In part of Rudd’s apology he states “ we apologize especially for the removal of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children…For the pain, suffering and of these Stolen generations, their descendants and for their families left behind, we say sorry” (Lecture). When the apology took place it allowed for Australians to heal its past wounds.
The Stolen Generation has impacted every person in Australia, whether they were Indigenous or WhiteAustralians. These years a highly controversial era in Australia’s past. The Indigenous people had many hard times throughout
the past decades They had been mistreated for many years that the negative impacts that go along with it will last a lifetime. Aboriginal people have gone through a lot; however, some of the racism is still going on. They are still being mistreated by select few individuals that still can not fathom how todays society is giving remorse to these people, not hatred. They have suffered enough throughout the Stolen Generation they do not need any more. With learning about Australia’s past and what had happened to the Stolen Generation makes my heart drop.
The things they had to go through and the way Aboriginals were treated for over a hundred years makes me cringe. How could people do this to others? However, this same thing happened back in America. African Americans were treated as slaves, sold like cattle, and beat for no reason just like Indigenous people were in Australia. Researching about the Stolen Generation was not only a great way to learn about Australia’s history, but also to learn about the Indigenous people. I feel as if the apology was not enough, even though the government can not rewind what was done. The apology and admitting they have done wrong is a step in the right direction.
Haebich, A 2011, ‘FORGETTING INDIGENOUS HISTORIES: CASES FROM THE HISTORY OF AUSTRALIA’S STOLEN GENERATIONS’, Journal Of Social History, 44, 4, pp. 1033-1046, Academic Search Complete, EBSCOhost, viewed 3 May 2013. References
Lecture Notes: Week 7-Stolen Generation
Sorry Day and the Stolen Generations – australia.gov.au. 2013. Sorry Day and the Stolen Generations – australia.gov.au. [ONLINE] Available at: http://australia.gov.au/about-australia/australian-story/sorry-day-stolen-generations. [Accessed 10 May 2013].
Stolen Generations Fact Sheet. 2013. » Stolen Generations Fact Sheet. [ONLINE] Available at: http://reconciliaction.org.au/nsw/education-kit/stolen-generations/. [Accessed 10 May 2013].