Origin of Australian Aboriginal People
Anthropological evidence suggests that Aborigines have occupied Australia for thousand of years. It is believed that they originally came from southeast Asia, entering the continent from the north. Modern Australia, including Tasmania, was then one continent with what is now New Guinea. They are not racially related to any other people.
Before colonization began in January 1788, the Australian Aborigines had survived as a race for hundreds of years. Their lifestyle and culture had remained largely unchanged until foreign immigrants arrived.
Invasion of Aboriginal Land
As British imperialism followed by colonialism began in the 19th century, large number of Europeans had come to Australia to build a new life for themselves and their families. Most of them were not interested in the affects colonization brought on the Aborigines who were often treated like a pest and a nuisance. Many were killed by diseases brought in by these new immigrants. Thousands were massacred to make way for farms and settlements. Their food sources were also destroyed. Some Aboriginal people adapted to the laws and the new lifestyle of the white people. In doing so, many were reduced to pauperism and became beggars. Others broke the traditional tribal lore by moving into the traditional lands of other tribes. In many cases, they had no option in doing this as they were facing either starvation or the gun.
Australian Aborigines were conquered through invasion of their lands. Like the Native Indians in North America, many became reliant on alcohol, tobacco and handouts of food and clothing. Settlers were often contemptuous of the Aborigines. By force and other heavy-handed means, Aborigines were separated from their community and became the fringe dwellers of society. Others were removed from their families and placed into state institutions. From the late 1830s, the remnants of the tribes in the settled areas were moved onto reserves and missions operated by white men. Aboriginal parents were prohibited to teach their children their mother language, customs and heritage.
Like Canada, another British commonwealth country Australia, also has a hideous history of oppressing its native people. During the 1900s, separation was an official government policy which lasted for many decades. Aboriginal children were removed from their families and forced to work as servants and to live on the government-controlled missions and reserves between 1885 and 1969. White settlers believed that the Aborigines would soon die off, and the reserve land would be sold and used for farming. However, a new generation of Aboriginal children was growing up in the reserves. Large scale child removal, combined with the arrival of European immigrants, changed the Aboriginal life forever. Many Aboriginal people do not know their origins, who their relatives are, which tribe they are descended from or the names of their parents and or grandparents. They are known as the stolen generation (or the lost generation).
When it became obvious that the Aboriginal people would not die off as expected, the "Aborigines Protection Board" for the Aborigines decided to break up all Aboriginal communities. Land belonged to the Aboriginal people was sold to the newly arrived Europeans for farming. The board started by taking away all the rights from Aborigines to own or use reserve lands; the Aborigines could own nothing. The reserves were made a training ground for Aboriginal children to become servants. The "protection board" had plans to remove Aboriginal children from their reserves and enslave them under the control of white employers. Removed children were never allowed to return home.
The white society thought it would be in the best interests of Aboriginal children to remove them from the "corrupting influence" of their family. Apprehended children were sent to institutions (usually operated by a religious group) or foster homes to be trained as servants. There were no rules or regulations for the treatment of the Aboriginal children who were sent to work. They are often abused and exploited by their white masters. The children then grew up in a white community knowing nothing of the Aboriginal culture and heritage.
In mid twentieth century, Aborigines worked for flour, sugar, and tea rations on the cattle stations of northern, central and western Australia. They also worked as cattle drivers, as shepherds, road repairers, water carriers, house builders and gardeners. If they try to escape and are captured, they will be beaten.
Many removed Aboriginal girls ended up in Sydney working for the middle-class white people. These girls usually were awakened very early to do all of the household chores. Employers had the girls working seven days a week. They were underpaid, exploited and enslaved for the benefits of their white masters. The middle-class white society did not allow Aboriginal girls to show any affection to white people. They said it was like black rubbing off onto white. Often the white people would send Aboriginal women out into the white community to serve as sex slaves. When they became pregnant, each woman will be kept for another two years and then her child will be taken away. Sometimes, mother and child would never see each other again.
State-enforced removal of indigenous Aboriginal children happened in every state and territory of Australia. Such notorious act started in Victoria and New South Wales as early as 1885. In some states, it did not cease until 1973. Most (as one source suggested 85%) of Aboriginal families have been affected in some way, either by having children taken away from them or by being forced to make major decisions to avoid having their children taken. Mothers of some Aboriginal children would cover their fair-skinned children with black clay, hide them in trees, behind sand dunes, or in hollow logs. These evasion activities are similar to those used by the mother of Moses Now a man of the house of Levi married a Levite woman, and she became pregnant and gave birth to a son. When she saw that he was a fine child, she hid him for three months. But when she could hide him no longer, she got a papyrus basket for him and coated it with tar and pitch. Then she placed the child in it and put it among the reeds along the bank of the Nile. His sister stood at a distance to see what would happen to him. (Exodus 2 verse 1 to 4) to avoid her son be killed by their Egyptian oppressors. Families were moving constantly, to keep one step ahead of "welfare" agents. Some families said that they were Italian, Maori, or Greek, leaving their true identity to themselves to escape the strict control of the white "protector".
Removal of children from their families affected many, if not most, Aboriginal people. In New South Wales alone, the government estimated that there were at least 8,000 Aboriginal children who had been taken away from their families between 1885 and 1996. Aboriginal children were often taken for being "neglected". Missions and reserves were often the places where many Aborigines would eventually die.
Ironically, children in state institutions were the most neglected children in Australia. Many had to sleep in overly crowded dormitories. If any of child wet the bed, he or she will be punished by rubbing nose in the wet sheet and then beaten up. The food they ate was so bad that sometimes the meat was infested with maggots. They were not supplied with shoes. To keep their feet warm, children would jump into the cow dung. They practiced this often at Roelands Mission, because during winter it got very cold. In Kinchela Boys' Home, which was based in New South Wales, many boys were sexually and physically abused.
Young Aborigines were forced to leave their homes and travel across the state looking for work. For the first time, many whites met with Aborigines and realized what poor conditions they were forced to live under. Despite this evidence of oppression and inhumane treatments, it was not until 1967 that Aboriginal people had a vote about their treatment in society. "Welfare system" protection remained in effect until 1969.
Similarities With Modern "Child Protection"
Interestingly, both Canada and Australia apologized to their own native people for removing and placing their children in government's "care" in 2008. While lip service is delivered, both countries continue to remove native children under the pretext of "child protection" at an astonishing high per capita ratio compared to families of other ethnic backgrounds.
Like the Canadian policy of "cultural assimilation" during the Residential School era, the oppression of Australian Aborigines bears the following similarities with modern "child protection" enforced in both nations:
The Same Oppression, The Same Cultural Assimilation, The Same Apology
On 13 February 2008, Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd delivered an official apology without qualification to the stolen generations of Australian Aborigines for removing them from their families and communities. Profound grief, suffering and loss of the victims were recognized by the Prime Minister. However, words of apology and condolence are totally useless to beguile families from the grief of a loss so overwhelming. The descriptions of harm to the stolen generations in this speech bear remarkable similarities to those suffered by families with children removed under the pretext of "child protection".
It is a matter of time that governments enforcing state-sponsored child removal will have to face justice and apologize for implementing such hideous policy against their people. It took the Australian government 35 years after abolished Aboriginal child separation policy in 1973 to make an apology. This ensures that wrongdoers in implementing this policy are either dead or will not embarrass the government if found responsible in a court of law.
The Stolen Generation Has Never Ceased to Exist
The article titled "Fears of new stolen generation" (9 March 2009) below states that Aboriginal children considered at risk by the Australian government are often placed with relatives, some of whom were dysfunctional themselves and ill-equipped to care for the youngsters. There is a suggestion to return to greater reliance on the use of cottage homes for Aboriginal wards of the state, a semi-permanent arrangement in which a paid foster carer.
In our view, as long as government has the power to remove children from their families, there will always be a stolen generation. Under the pretext of "child safety and child protection", there is no difference in placing them in the "good hands" of the church or modern foster homes. Empirical data in Canada suggest that children are often traumatized when removed from their parents. Many suffered negative impacts while in "care". Some are abused or killed in residential schools (the Canadian equivalent of the child removal regime that caused the Stolen Generation) and foster homes. Many of these victims are Native Indians.
Despite the long overdue apology in 2008, the Stolen Generation has never vanished. The message of the woman above echoes parents in most English-speaking nations in which their governments have the authority to remove children from their families. Child removal authority is a serious threat to safety and freedom.
[This page was added on 28 March 2009, last revised on 6 November 2014.]