Past policies and practices within government and non-government organisations saw many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people moved from their homelands. Further, it has been suggested that between one in three and one in ten Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children were forcibly removed from their parents, community and culture. These children were placed in institutions, non-Indigenous foster homes or adopted by non-Indigenous families. Many children were informed their parents did not love them, did not want them or that their parents had died. Children were not allowed to speak their traditional language and they were often given minimal education, limiting their employment options to low skill work like domestic helpers or labourers.
The trauma faced by many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people was not limited to the forcible removal of their children as often these children were subjected to harsh living conditions, abuse and neglect. The loss of kin, culture and identity was the result of children growing up not knowing where they came from, who their family is and having no sense of belonging.
The removal of generations of children disrupted the sharing of oral culture between generations, resulting in the loss of cultural knowledge, ways of living, how kinship systems and community offer security, survival techniques such as fishing and hunting and sharing of information through storytelling, art, dance and music.
As an added impact of these forced separation between parents and children, many families were not able to experience healthy family life.
The children of these forcible removals are known as the ‘Stolen Generations’.
On 13 February 2008, the then Prime Minister of Australia, Kevin Rudd, made a formal apology on behalf of the Australian Parliament to Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, in particular to the Stolen Generations.
Watch this video on Kevin Rudd’s national apology to the Stolen Generations.
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