How Do the Stolen Generations Move On?

16 August 2019
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The phrase 'stolen generations' is the name given to the many thousands of children from Indigenous families who were forcibly removed by the state, churches and other welfare bodies for the better part of the 20th century.

This practice, which continued until the 1970s, was intended to try and integrate the Indigenous population into a white culture, with the assumption that these children would grow up equal to white children, and over time change the nature of society.

Effects Of Removal

Whilst it is always difficult to generalise about this type of abuse, it is fair to say that the effects of this type of policy on both the families and the children involved are likely to have been catastrophic. The issues facing these families and their relatives today are twofold. Firstly is an honest acknowledgement of the past and why it happened, with the various parties involved taking ownership of what they did and the damage that it caused.

The second thing is in some ways a more practical issue—how families and those involved come to terms with the sense of loss and devastation that these policies brought to their lives, and how they rebuild their lives with some degree of stability and security in today's world.

Bringing Them Home

'Bringing them Home' is the name of a report published in April 1997 which acknowledged the history and some of the effects of forced separation. The report went into some detail, tracing the background both at a national level and at a state level. It also spelt out the effects and the consequences of removal, including the trauma of adoption and sexual abuse.

The report was generally welcomed, and it made a list of recommendations to allow families and relatives to move on. However, the degree to which these recommendations have been accepted and acted upon is widely debated and is still the cause of much controversy in Australia today.

Moving On

For families and their relatives trying to move forward, an acknowledgement of the past is a key consideration. This is due to the same principle of many abuse cases: when the abuse is not acknowledged or is actively denied, it tends to reinforce the original abuse in a much more devastating way. Once there has been any type of acknowledgement of the past, it lays the ground for individuals to own the hurt and damage they have been caused, and try to begin to heal themselves in any way they can. Many children of the stolen generation want and need help at two specific levels.

Firstly, they need practical help from government agencies and other bodies to trace their families, or any family members who are still alive, and try and arrange some type of reunion. Failing this, they need information about their families that they were separated from and what happened to them.

They also need help at a more therapeutic or spiritual level. This will normally relate to the effects of forced separation that led to many children having an overwhelming sense of abandonment and loss that affects them to this day.

Many children were placed into families or institutions where they were abused in a number of ways, including being sexually abused, and they need to not only be listened to but also be given practical help in whatever way possible.