Monday, August 20

Stolen Generation


STOLEN GENERATION


(Last April I was reading evidence about the “Stolen Generation” and I got impressed by these testimonies, so I decided to write about it for 26 May, Australian National Sorry Day, but then I did not have the time. That’s why I am here to do it now).




The Stolen Generation refers to the forcible removal of Aboriginal and Torres strait Islander children from their families and communities by Australian government and church missions from the beginning of the 20th century until the 1970s. According to the official government report, at least 100,000 children were removed from their parents with terrible consequences such as broken families, shattered physical and mental health, loss of language, culture and connection to traditional land, loss of parenting skills; and the enormous distress of many of its victims today. Although children of full Aboriginal descent were removed, in general the children of “mixed descent” the so called “half-caste” children were the most targeted. The stolen children were raised in institutions or fostered out to white families “for their own good” (according to the policies of the time). The conditions in these institutions were often terrible –food and clothing was often in short supply and punishments were cruel and included physical assaults.

In response to efforts made by Indigenous community groups, in 1995 the Federal govern
ment commissioned the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission to make a report about the Stolen Generation. It was the first time the Australian government had formally investigated the devastating psychological, social, cultural and economic effects of the forcible removal of Indigenous children.
The official report took evidence and recorded testimonies from 535 Indigenous people throughout Australia, which resulted in the Report “Bringing Them Home: The National Enquiry into the Separation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children from their families”. This National Inquiry observed that in many cases gross violations of human rights occurred. Children were in some cases forcibly removed from their mother’s arms while still in hospital. Other evidence indicated that deception and brutality was used to remove children. One account referring to events in 1935 stated that:

“ I was at the post office with my Mum and Auntie (and cousin). They put us in the police ute (vehicle) and said they were taking us to Broome. They put the mums in there as well. But when we’d gone (about ten miles) they stopped, and threw the mothers out of the car. We jumped on our mothers’s backs, crying, trying not to be left behind. But the policemen pulled us off and thew us back in the car. They pushed the mothers away and drove off, while our mothers were chasing the car, running and crying after us. We were screaming in the back of that car. When we got to Broome they put me and my cousin in the Broome lock-up. We were only ten years old. We were in the lock-up for two days waiting for the boat to Perth.”
The effects of the forcible removal of children were devastating and are still being felt today. Evidence shows that the removal from family and community have caused irreparable harm. These children are more likely to have poor health, depression, lack of self-esteem, have lower levels of education, are more likely to be arrested and/or imprisoned and have problems with alcohol and drug abuse. Good parenting skills were not learnt in institutions or foster homes and this has affected the way that children taken from their families relate and interact with their own children.
“Bringing Them Home” report opened the way of recognition of the Stolen Generation by including recommendations for a journey of healing such as the continuing recording of testimonies, the reunion of families and communities and the establishment of regional centres where language and culture could be preserved. It was also recommended that All Australians should be educated about the Stolen Generation.


One of the recommedations of the report was that a National Sorry Day should be declared, a day when all the Australians can express their sorrow for the whole tragic episode, and celebrate the beginning of a new understanding. The first National Sorry Day was held on 26 May 1998 and it offered the community the opportunity to be involved in activities which took place across Australia.
The native Hibiscus flower was adopted as a national emblem of the Stolen Generation. Sorry books, where people could record their personal feelings, were presented to representatives of the indigenous communities. Hundreds of thousands of signatures were received, as well as apologies registered electronically.

Sorry Day was an annual event between 1998 and 2004. In 2005 the National Sorry Day was renamed as “National Day of Healing”, focusing on the healing needed throughout Australian Society to achieve reconciliation and “walk together”.

One of the most lyrical and moving expressions of the sorrow and despair of the Stolen Generation has been given by the singer and songwriter Archie Roach. In 1990, Archie recorded the album “Charcoal Lane” with the song “Took the Children Away” which became an anthem for the many Aboriginal people who identify strongly with its story. Archie has also expressed this sadness in another more recent song “My Mother’s Heartbeat”.
The internationally successful rock group Midnight Oil obtained worldwide media interest during the Sydney 2000 Summer Olympics when they performed at the Olympic closing ceremony wearing black T-shirts with the word “SORRY” emblazoned across them.

2 comentarios:

ÑLB said...

I am having a look at your interesting post. I see it is about a tragic episode. I have found more information on the internet to try to understand that. Always the same story. Colonialism, abuse of power... Its a shame!
http://www.conferenciaepiscopal.es/cine/2003/generacionrobada.htm

isabelgg said...

Thanks a lot for visiting my blog and for your comment, you know I appreciate it very much.Thanks once more.