Bringing Them Home:
the 'Stolen Generation' Report
"Almost half of the Aboriginal people who died in custody and were investigated by the Black Deaths Royal Commission, had been removed from their families as children..."
- Kirsten Garrett, Background Briefing, Sunday, 11 February 1996.
The 'Stolen Generation' is the expression used to describe the Aboriginal people of Australia who were forcibly removed from their families as children between 1900s and the 1960s, to be brought up by white foster families or institutions.
The practice became commonplace and, in fact, government policy, as did the wide-spread killing of Aboriginal people. "The newspapers, the parliamentary Hansards, the diaries which set out the Australian record plainly and clearly in black and white show beyond doubt that most whites on the frontier were well aware that Aboriginal people were being murdered in very large numbers," states historian Professor Marcia Langton. Removal of Aboriginal children was still taking place well into the 1960s and 70s, especially if they were light-skinned or mixed-race.
Mothers smeared their children with black clay, or held them over a fire to try to darken their skin, or hid them in hollow logs to avoid "welfare" workers from taking their children. "Good intentions were there (on the part of church and state], but behind that, particularly in the 1930s and right through to the 1940s was this quite deliberate plan to breed the Aborigines out.
"The National Inquiry into the Separation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children from Their Families was established in May 1995 in response to efforts made by key indigenous agencies and communities. They were concerned that the general public's ignorance of the history of forcible removal was hindering the recognition of the needs of its victims and their families and the provision of services.
A key turning point was the 1994 Going Home Conference in Darwin. Representatives from every state and territory met to share experiences, to bring to light the history and its effects in each jurisdiction and to devise strategies to meet the needs of those children and their families who survive. On 11 May 1995, the then Attorney-General, Michael Lavarch MP, referred the issue of past and present practices of separation of Indigenous children from their families to the Commission.
Public evidence was taken from Indigenous organisations and individuals, state and territory government representatives, church representatives, other non-government agencies, former mission and government employees and individual members of the community. Confidential evidence was taken in private from Indigenous people affected by forcible removal and from adoptive and foster parents. Many people and organisations made written submissions to the Inquiry, including many who also gave oral evidence.
The Stolen Generations report can be downloaded as a series of PDF files: