05 May 2005

The Stolen Generation

Compared to the children of Darfur, or some others around the world, I realise how insignificant my fuss over my cultural identity really is. Perhaps it’s one of the vagaries of comfortable urban living.

After reading a friend’s email on motherhood blues, I was reminded of my childhood in Australia and a matter that, though it didn’t mean much then, suddenly sprang up in my mind last night. For over half a century, maybe longer, Aboriginal children were legally removed from their black mothers and put into the care of state institutions and white foster parents. It was a policy of “assimilation” - whatever that means.

These children, now known as “The Stolen Generation”, who have lost contact with their natal families and their culture (and their trauma must still haunt them), received considerable media attention after a major government inquiry in 1997. Reportedly, it even led to a call for a national apology to the Aboriginal people, although Prime Minister John Howard refused to acknowledge that the Australian people have anything for which to apologise. But, as a gesture, he did make funding available to link-up and counsel those who were affected.

In another gesture, Jim Soorley, The Lord Mayor of Brisbane, led a National Sorry Day in 1998, formally apologising to Aborigines on behalf of the people of Brisbane. Thus, began a “Journey of Healing”.

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