Stolen generations struggle continues

Last week I attended the launch in Melbourne of a report released by the organisation Stolen Generations Victoria.  The report is called Unfinished Business, which is the same name given to a report from a Senate Committee I initiated into the Stolen Wages issue.  This is a reminder that all these injustices are interlinked.  To me, all these reports and the evidence and experiences they draw on are a clear indication that we will never fully address all the difficulties experienced by many Indigenous Australians until we fully recognise all the extreme injustices Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples were subjected to over the last two centuries.

When you read all the histories about the massacres, the killings, the forced removals, the imprisonment on ‘reserves’ and the atrocious mistreatment and neglect Indigenous people were subjected to over many decades, the practices that led to the Stolen Generations are far from the worst.

Given there is still significant resistance amongst many in Australia to acknowledging the reality of the Stolen Generations’ experiences, it is reasonable to suggest that we as a nation are still a long way short of fully acknowledging the many other less than positive aspects of our history, no matter how well documented and undeniable it is.

It is good to see people continuing to agitate for proper reparations for the Stolen Generations. But it is telling and welcome that the final of the 12 recommendations in the report proposed that “The Federal government should seriously consider negotiating a treaty with the first Australians.”

A treaty is very unfashionable these days, but the reasons why it was a good idea when it was promised, but not delivered, by the former Hawke government, are just as valid today.  It certainly won’t fix everything all by itself, but it is hard to see how everything could be addressed without some major mechanism of acknowledgement of the dispossession and major wrong doings which played a significant part in building the Australia of today.

Unfinished Business: Reparations, Restitution and Rehabilitation’ was a series of forums conducted by SGV throughout Aboriginal Communities in Victoria in 2008. The aim was to hear directly from members of the Stolen Generations as to what they would like to see happen in recompense for their experiences. The report details the findings of those forums and is necessary reading for anyone interested in the plight of the Stolen Generations today. The report is aimed at government and relevant organisations and makes 12 recommendations.

When I was still in the Senate, I tried to promote further consideration of some of the unfulfilled recommendation from the Bringing Them Home report – particularly through introducing legislation aimed at providing some degree of compensation for more of those affected by this practice.  Greens Senator Rachel Siewert has continued on with the task by reintroducing a stronger version of the same legislation.

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37 Comments

  1. Andrew

    It is time to say, Tough Tiities. Life wasn’t meant to be easy. Move On. I could not give a shirt about those modern-day carpetbaggers trying to profit from the misery – imagined or otherwise – of people long, long dead. And neither could 90% of the rest of us.

  2. Who are teh “people long dead” you refer to, John? If you mean the stolen generations, it was still going on in the 1969s – many are still alive, though damaged. There are many still trying to find out their own true identities.

  3. John Greenfield – What planet have you been living on? Were you at least out of the country for ???years? Truly, go to the site of Mick Dodson and the speech he made on Corroborree Day 2000 in the Sydney Opera House. He’s still living, as is his brother Patrick. He gives the account of his family’s history – he’s younger than me! Their grandmother was a stolen child, as was their mother and 2 sisters. Mick was an orphan at a young age, but was still classified as a ‘ward of the state’ under the laws of the time. He is about 56? His aunt and uncle had to go to court and fight to keep him with them – thankfully, they won. He’s a Professor at the Uni in Canberra I believe. Cathy Freeman’s parents had to seek permission to go and visit their parents – it was denied in the 1960’s? There are thousands of stories. Go to the Bringing Them Home website, which has the report into stolen generations. Mick Dodson was one of the people who conducted that Inquiry.

    When the Senate conducted an Inquiry into the mothers whose babies they were forced to relinquish during the 50’s, 60’s, Senators were in tears when the Report was published, and so were many others, including me. Why then is there animosity from people like you, when the same, sometimes worse acts of inhumanity were inflicted on aboriginal people? Don’t you think they are human beings too? Don’t you think they’re capable of feeling griefstricken when the forced separations took place. Sometimes only one child (the one with the fairest skin) was removed from a family of 3-6? Sometimes all the kids were removed? Ask yourself, how would you feel if you were denied the love of your parents/siblings/your history/where you came from? What life would you have without that? Who is your grandmother, and where did she come from? It’s almost beyond comprehension, that people suffered such agonies, and remained sane! Your attitude only aggravates their pain!

  4. John Greenfield:

    I don’t think 90% of the people would agree with what you say.

    The government could at least pay the people or their descendants what they were owed in wages, plus interest.

    I don’t know how you can compensate someone for cutting them off from their family or community.

    The movie “Australia” covers the issue to a limited degree. The thing that surprised me was that the half-castes or “creamies” were also rejected by white Australians.

    But I’ve heard of half-castes being rejected by both of the races to which they belonged (non-aboriginal and non-white), when you would think it natural for them to be accepted by both.

  5. JOHN Do you know how the saying, “tough titties” started? OR where I think it started. It’s pretty revolting! I think you should go away for a long while, do some serious reading, find out the facts, and then start again.

    LORIKEET – As for compensating people via money. When our society puts such emphasis on money, material wealth, ownership of ‘things’ as being more important than the ‘lip service’ about the value of human beings, then money is a recognised vehicle to compensate people with. How else would a greedy, selfish, racist society compensate people for such trauma as stealing their family, their history, their happiness and survival? If there’d been another means to do it, it shouldn’t have had to wait for 200 yrs, and we wouldn’t have fed them alcohol and drugs so that they’d be permanently numbed to the evil that was done, or to keep them from rising up with too much anger! We can always blame them for their own demise – that seems to be a good weapon!

    The method of putting aboriginal people into categories based on their colour is disgusting and typifies the attitudes of 2 centuries – demeaning them into colour categories like flora or fauna – the place they were given the only reference in the Constitution prior to May 27 1967. Nobody says you’re 1/3 Aussie and 2/3 ?? nor am I an Irish/Australian or the reverse. It was the same sort of language that was present during the slavery period in the US, and just as repugnant. It was also used to express, that ‘aboriginal mothers only cried for their babies for a short time’ – after all, they weren’t really ‘human’ like the rest of us. There’s more places to research aboriginal history than “Australia”. I’ve just got one from the library called, “The Struggle for Aboriginal Rights” A documentary history, from the 1830’s until the present, or Henry Reynolds, or “Demons at Dusk” by Peter Stewart, about the massacre at Myall Creek.

  6. Naomi:

    Well why isn’t the government giving them the money associated with stolen wages? Surely they’re entitled to be paid for past work.

    I’m sure the aboriginal peoples would value money more highly than lip service. Lip service is only talk, barely worth a cracker in the scheme of things. Surely ANY kind of action speaks louder than words.

    BTW the aboriginal people were doing magic mushrooms well before the white man arrived.

    Categorising people of any race, religion or culture is far more than 2 centuries old. Caste system? Aristocracy? Peasants? The list goes on.

  7. Andrew

    Do you think you could set a specific post called the Bird and Tendon show, a variant on the dog and pony, where the Lorikkeet and Carteldge could face off and debate ad nuaseum, while the rest of us could try to enjoy / or otherwise your offerings?

  8. KEN And your problem is ??What’s stopping you from contributing. Says a lot about you when you feel intimidated by 2 women or? By the way, the spelling of that cartilage is different, and is not a tendon! According to my medical dictionary, there’s 19 different areas/types of cartilage, including the thorax, chest etc.
    At least I put my surname on my posts.

  9. I am so with you Ken.

    It is typical that the only time those excessively verbose, endlessly repititive and uterrly predictable bores stop fighting with each other is when someone complains about how tedious and irritating they are. It certainly makes me far less interested in following the posts on this blog when its the same few people endlessly having the same arguments with each other, regardless of the alleged topic of the post.

    Haven’t you people heard of the concept that “less is more”?! How a bout a nice big cup of “StFU” once in a while – leave some space for others who don’t want to just have the same rants on every single topic.

  10. Bob:

    You can talk. All we ever hear from you is name-calling (racist, turkey etc) and criticism, so you can hardly complain about those of us who are doing all of the hard work while you sit back thinking of a new name to call someone.

    Did YOUR post contain an opinion on the topic? I don’t think so.

  11. Well Lorikeet (and Naomi), has it ever occured to your tiny tiny minds that it isn’t compulsory to spout voluminous bile and ignorance backwards and forwards on every single topic posted on a blog?

    Commenting isn’t compulsory. The general rule amongst people with any comprehension of human interaction is that if you have nothing new or knowledgable to say, then just shut the fuck up.

    It’s not really that hard.

    If the public wanted the Lorikeet vs Naomi show, they’d demand you set up your own blog. I haven;t noticed anyone asking for that, but if there is a single solitary person who actually enjoys reading the endless predictable diatribes that takes place between you two tired old windbags, here’s their chance to say so.

    I will bet both of you $100 that you can’t shut up on this blog for 3 whole days – and in that time let’s see if a single reader pipes up and says “I want to hear more of what Lorikeet and/or Namoi thinks”.

  12. Bob:

    I have an IQ in the top 2% of the population. I think your language, your insults and your bad attitude (still with no input) is an excellent indicator of who has the tiny mind.

    You’re just trying to sideline the debate (again!) with your whingeing, so now I’m going to ignore you.

    The aboriginal people won’t ever get their unpaid wages if we waste further time on you.

  13. Utterly enlightening…

    Maybe you should start with a ‘treaty’ between those who post here.

    What a fucking waste of energy.

  14. question
    dose anyone here know of any good storys of people of the stolen generations.
    you know someone who was given an opitunity that they would not have had any chance of getting otherwise .
    is there any champions for there cause that would not be there if not educated
    there is no dout that what was done to these ppl was the wrong thing but i think along with the horror storys there must be some fantastic storys to .
    i wonder where mr Dobson would be today without the opitunity he got.

    lorikeet
    i dont know what my iq is but i think its more than 2% ;-)

  15. Red crab – more research is needed – there is a book of Patrick Doson’s story – it’s called “Paddy’s road” – written by Kevin Keefe. You may find hte answers there.

    The tragedy of the stolen generations didn’t start with Paddy, and his siblings, too .. who had different fates if I recall .. but began in earlier generations, when money left by her “white” Irish father to his grandmother, I think it would be, was confiscated by the infamous A, O Neville – possible because she was “half-white” and Neville was all-powerful.

    http://www.kooriweb.org/foley/resources/politics/aust30aug03.html

  16. Addendum to the above: If Patrick Dodson had the same fate as his brother Mick, whose story is told briefly here http://www.abc.net.au/rn/relig/enc/stories/s140755.htm then in fact they are a testimony to the endurance of the family strength of aboriginal people, since Mick’s aunt and uncle managed with difficulty to save the orphaned Dodson children and bring them up — though the difficulties the family faced in earlier generations, as I alluded to above, all for having the wrong colour skin, are a permanenet shame to my great-grandparents, subsequent generations of my family, and me today.

    There are many stories in the “Stolen generations” issue – we may htink that someone who has succeeded in the mainstream world woudl have been one of the stolen or one who was not – it is rarely that simple, my aboriginal friends tell me. Funnily enough, there are many factors of personality, luck, upbringing and who knows what else that make up the fate of the rest of us, too. But not so many of us started out denied family, religion, language, homeplace or even knowledge of who we were.

  17. well you just keep on reading your books dolphins myself i will just keep on talking to the people who are affected .
    there are many storys that are told to make you cry but we never here of the storys that make you happy
    the truth is that theres more money to be made from sad storys
    dont get me wrong any money that is owed should be payed in full with interest.

    we are all products of our past
    we are not products of what our past could have been

  18. red crab – if you want the actual words of the person, then read te first link given http://www.kooriweb.org/foley/resources/politics/aust30aug03.html
    which is a verbatim report of Mick Dodson’s speech. Not sure how that it not authentic ? Yes, there are some aboriginal people who are gald their lives turned out as they did. It’s not strange – luck, thier own character, opportunities offered them .. all play a part. And their stories are valid too.

  19. Bob:

    Okay, I have shut up for 3 days. You can send me the cheque for $100 via Andrew.

    I have already earmarked the cash to buy rugs for homeless people living on Brisbane’s streets.

    I’m sure they will be grateful for your generous contribution.

  20. Bob – Sorry, I didn’t realize that you were in charge! I should’ve asked your permission first it seems. It’s been more than 3 days, you can donate $100 to Cancer research! I missed the post that stated you have superior attitudes to impart! If you look at your language, you might notice who’s been offensive! Foul mouth!

  21. Bob says:
    I will bet both of you $100 that you can’t shut up on this blog for 3 whole days – and in that time let’s see if a single reader pipes up and says “I want to hear more of what Lorikeet and/or Namoi thinks”.

    It’s not too hard to bypass a post you don’t like. After reading some of your own posts, in my eyes the pot is calling the kettle black.

  22. Yup. I agree with GZG on that.

    Bob, in my experience a politely-phrased well-framed question can often elicit thought-provoking responses from apparently wayward commenters. And making a small effort to find common ground is usually worth the effort.

  23. As you can see from the above Feral the pungency of parody is wasted on the two Mesdames.

    The reason I don’t generally comment ad nauseum is basically because there is no additional value I can add to the discussion. As in this case the original premise posited by Andrew is unarguable, hence there is little point in diving off into related but tangential issues.. There’s no badge of honour for endless comment from my point of view.

    WRT to the issue of seeking common ground or trying to elicit reasoned responses; with the feathered friend I would agree and she regularly does exhibit paused thinking, with our sinuous tendon or grizzle which ever way you like it, not so.

    Several commentators, indeed some with similar views, have attempted to interact or discuss or attempted to extract some from of balanced discussion with the aforementioned Naomi to no avail.

    Whatever capacity for reasoned debate appears to have been totally subsumed by a view that concession on any matter is a sign of male induced weakness and the line must be held no matter what.

    Sadly a societal trait much more common these days, is much like the then government’s view on the Iraq war, you’re either with us or agin us. Extreme views have become the norm, partisan thoughts are paramount and public debate has largely been bereft of moderate argument, balanced judgement, or reserved equivocation.

  24. Ken:

    “hence there is little point in diving off into related but tangential issues.”

    People who think like that are taking away the connective tissue, ligaments (and dare I say tendons?) that build the bones of the skeleton of any discussion, political or otherwise, and bind them to other topics.

    I think this is, however, the most interesting post you have contributed in a very long time.

    Speaking of extremism, perhaps you might like to convince environmentalists that a few bats need to be shot before our orchardists go broke, and so that we might at least have a peach or two left to share between us.

    But I still think you and Bob both deserved a sharp nip on the backside, along with a tendon snap or three.

    Bob:

    Now where is THE MONEY before all of the rugs go?

  25. question
    dose anyone here know of any good storys of people of the stolen generations.

    now i think that its amazing how intelegent ppl have turned that question into

    peaches and shooting bats.

  26. Red Crab:

    I think eating is pretty important. Sorry I can’t help you out, but if you stay tuned to the ABC, you might hear a few good stories. They’ve had some on before.

  27. KEN – You obviously prefer the type of language used by BOB! No wonder you don’t have anything much to add! Not one criticism of his turn of phrase? Now, why doesn’t that surprise me?

    RED CRAB – “i wonder where mr Dobson would be today without the opitunity he got.” Mick Dodson was not removed from his family. His parents died and his aunt and uncle fought in the court to keep him – they succeeded. He’d been designated as a ‘state ward’ even though he had family. The question of peoples’ successes or not is not the issue. Of course many people succeeded in spite of being removed, perhaps in one aspect of their lives (Archie Roach – singer, songwriter) but he was a tortured soul for too many years, and even though he’s a ‘success story’ he said he is pained by being deprived of his family, each day. We have many aspects to our beings – our emotional health is as important or more so than our scholastic or other capabilities. That’s the issue – how being deprived of family and being abused, bashed, raped etc had on their psyche! The fact that many did achieve ‘worldly’ things is testament to their strength of spirit, despite their pain and anguish.But, if govts had provided educational, family, health & community opportunities for indigenous people as in the rest of the country, many aboriginal kids could have had both – family and educational opportunities – just like I had and my kids and now grandkids enjoy!

  28. Ken – my own thoughts on appropriate commenting behaviour are pretty similar to yours, & like you I’d love to see more nuance & subtlety in public debate.

    But I suppose part of the issue is whether or not we should expect other commenters to do likewise. It seems that every blog has its contingent of commenters with hobby-horses – perhaps that’s part of the commenter pathology. Perhaps a desire for social contact is part of what motivates commenters too. And on a blog like this – intended to be as broadly-accessible as possible – the standard of commenting is going to be more variable than on some other blogs. Should we be dissatisfied with that, we can always find another electronic domicile on which to play.

    It’s no secret that I sometimes feel frustrated with repetitive comments & cardboard cut-out arguments, but I don’t think that telling people to shut up – as Bob did – is really the answer. Ultimately, its Andrew B’s prerogative to make that decision.

    Anyway, I trust Bob has coughed up the dosh.

  29. there are two sides to every story it would seem that only some ppl realise this .
    history canot be told truthfully without both storys.
    why is it that we only ever hear one side of this story.

  30. Red crab – the voices of many stolen children are written down n this book produced by the National Library. Some interviewees have sad stories, others say that materially they are probably better off than if they’d been able to grow up in the Pilbara, for example.

    Since 1998, the National Library of Australia, with funding from the Federal Government, has been recording narratives about the removal of children from their families. Indigenous community members, those who fostered or adopted children, policy makers, administrators, and others have shared their individual experiences. This publication, including a CD of excerpts from oral histories, will bring those stories to a wide audience and assist readers to understand the complex layers of this aspect of Australias story.

    http://books.google.com/books?id=VXQu0H-3hjsC&pg=PA203&lpg=PA203&dq=Mary+Terszak.&source=bl&ots=tid5qjwNlA&sig=R9qS-z9X3jRsnTqcQvvxIgugHVE&hl=en&sa=X&oi=book_result&resnum=1&ct=result#PPP10,M1

    Many Voices: Reflections on Experiences of Indigenous Child Separation
    By Anna Haebich, Doreen Mellor, National Library of Australia, National Library of Australia
    Edition: illustrated
    Published by National Library of Australia, 2002
    ISBN 0642107548, 9780642107541
    324 pages

  31. red crab

    “there are two sides to every story it would seem that only some ppl realise this .
    history canot be told truthfully without both storys.
    why is it that we only ever hear one side of this story.”
    I don’t know whether that is so. For instance, a violent bank robbery really only has one story. People carrying weapons broke several major laws by using force, fear, intimidation to commit the act of robbery. There could be stories from different peoples’ perspective, but the reality is the same. So with people who were forcibly removed from their families, for the ONE REASON – they weren’t ‘black enough’. In fact, in some families of say 3-6 or more kids, only 1 or 2 ? were removed. Imagine what went through their young minds during their life, or the lies they were told – your parents didn’t like you etc. I understand this was common, plus the refusal to allow these children to speak their own language/s or cry for their mothers – met with physical force! The Bringing Them Home Report has submissions/stories from many people who were removed.

    As to History?There has been a long term practice of denying the invasion, occupation and stealth of land, culture and of course lives. Being in denial does not make the story different. I’m reading The Struggle for Aboriginal Rights – A documentary History of 160 yrs that clearly shows that aboriginal people did fight physically/politically for their rights(heaps of documented evidence from Aust & Britain)Peter Stewart’s book, Demons at Dusk about the massacre at Myall Creek; took 20 yrs to write and clearly shows the attitudes towards indigenous people of that time. I believe it’s going to be made into a film.There’s books by Henry Reynolds; Peter Read’s (A Rape of the Soul
    So Profound) is a challenging and moving read.SBS The First Australians is great – you can watch each episode online, if you missed it on TV.Mick Dodsons’ speech in the Opera House on May 27 2000 is on the internet – I taped it -awesome

  32. Naomi:

    I think what Red Crab is trying to say is that not everyone has had exactly the same experiences.

    I’ve seen aboriginal people on TV telling us that they have actually benefited by being taken out of the aboriginal communities, looked after by the church and also educated.

  33. LORIKEET-“I’ve seen aboriginal people on TV telling us that they have actually benefited by being taken out of the aboriginal communities, looked after by the church and also educated.” But the rest of Australia enjoyed the comfort, love, culture, language etc of their families, and were ALSO educated. You’re missing the point. It was due to governments’ criminal neglect and racist attitudes that denied aboriginal people an education. That’s the repercussions of racism. Aboriginal people also have a high incidence of Rheumatic Fever, which was eradicated in say Melbourne & Sydney with improved housing, sanitation & sewerage. Also aboriginal kids have the highest incidence of kidney disease in the world!

    “looked after by the church”??In too many instances, not only were they not “looked after” they were bashed if they spoke their language or cried for their families. Too many were sexually abused also. We have psychologists on hand almost instantly a traumatic event occurs, whether it’s a natural disaster or a violent murder. Aboriginal kids and their families did not! They also suffered from Post Traumatic Stress disorder, and most people deny their reality of feeling traumatized decades after. No TV newsreader warned them, ‘that the following scenes might be distressing for some viewers’?

    You can’t compare people who were and still are being treated in that manner with people who grew up with loving parents and siblings; who knew their beginnings and who their ancesters were! The more I read the more I understand how these situations almost ‘froze’ many indigenous people into depressed, demoralized people, and led others into despair and depression – hence the use of distructive substances – introduced by non-aboriginals, particularly the grog! In fact grog was a necessary selling commodity that kept many community ‘shops’ going, and also assisted in funding remote & disadvantaged communities. It was encouraged!

  34. KEN and others; if you don’t like the way this site is managed, start your own. It seems to me, that in your view, the only comments worth publishing are those of the superior beings posting here! My god, no wonder women are feminists. You’re really a piece of work! I put up with being humiliated, denigrated, hit around the end, publicly ridiculed by both teachers (nuns) and at least 2 other males in my life, that I don’t get fazed by people (males) like you lot any more! Due to your arrogance and your belief in your ‘natural’ superiority, any opinion contrary to yours is a reason to belittle and humiliate rather than respond or just going away! Try that if you don’t like the opinions of Lorikeet or me or ?? I frequently feel the disdain of your superior contributions, and others use of foul language!

    Next thing you’ll be trying to convince us, that there’s little if any need for legislated basic human rights. There’s an unsavoury self opinionated thread that drives the responses of too many males on this site. Whether it’s White Ribbon Day discussions or this topic, out you trot with your words of disdain & paternalistic insults! It’s like people complaining of programs on TV – just switch off!

  35. Thanks Naomi, but I rather prefer people didn’t ‘just switch off’ from my blog.

    Comments threads that degnerate into wildly off-topic sniping matches tend not to attract readers, and certainly don’t encourage a wider range of people to comment.

    I know I’ve promised it a few times, but I’ll have another go at more rigidly enforcing my comments policy – which in shorthand, is:
    – stay on topic
    – civil discussion rather than personal attacks.

    Lets see how I go.

    This post is over a month old, so I’;; close off comments on this thread now.

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