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Aboriginal history has always existed. It exists now and it existed many years ago.
It’s not a subject often talked about by the government or the general public, as with many topics of conversation or history that relates to a minority group, the subject can be pushed aside or seem unworthy to discuss because it’s not something that has happened to the non-Aboriginal population.
Through many years of fighting for justice and a right to be heard, the pain and suffering of children who have grown up learning the truth of their past and their families have spoken out and the reality has been exposed.
Their lives have been made unbearable from the cruel actions of the government and the community. For many years their history has been kept nearly a secret, people don’t know of the stolen generation and the history books would have the English settlers as the rightful owners of this land.
Many Aborigines grew up without ever realising who their families were or even who they truly were themselves because their whole existence had been based upon lies told to them by the families they thought they could trust.
The reality of the stolen generation has been brought into Australia by the angered Aboriginal population who have experienced this themselves and want to make the world listen to what injustices and racism their lives have been thrown into.
The Aboriginal culture consisted of small groups or tribes as they were more commonly known as.
Because they lived a life in the bush, the aborigines had to survive by gathering plant and animal life for food, making clothing out of the skin of animals such as possums and kangaroos.
To catch these animals, the tribes made their own hunting instruments which consisted of spears, animal traps, nets and knives.
Even though life was harder for them, the relationships between the families were strong. Each tribe stayed together and would sacrifice their lives for their family and friends.
To the aborigines, family came before anything else.
“I had no knowledge I was going to be taken. I was not even able to see my grandmother and I had just the clothes I had on my back, such as they were. I never saw mum again” [Bird 1940: 53]
This is just one of the true stories from the victims of the Stolen Generation, and like Greg whose story was in the book: The Stolen Children: Their Stories, many of the children were not aware that they were going to be forced into a whole different life and there was absolutely nothing they could do or say to change it once the decision had been made.
The takings of the children began fairly soon after the settlers from England arrived, around the 1900s up until 1972.
The settlers claimed the land as their own and soon enough the government decided to try to destroy the Aboriginal culture by coming up with a plan to steal children from their families, place them into a “white” family and therefore slowly killing off the traditions, turning all Aboriginal children into what they liked to believe was the correct way of living.
Though to some of the people who came up with this plan, the reasons were to them, not cruel. They actually thought they were doing the right thing by placing them in the other families.
Most of the white families were unaware of just how cruel and serious the issue was, they trusted what the government had to say and the ones who did know and were on the government’s side were never caught out of line treating their Aboriginal child differently to any of their other children because anything bad that happened, happened right in the household away from the eyes of anyone else. In those days the general public would not have even cared about what went on behind closed doors.
They were only Aboriginals after all.
“I was at the post office office with my Mum and Auntie. They put us in the police 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.” [1935; fact index website]
In many of the reports brought forward by the government, authorities were deceiving and manipulative towards the Aboriginal families.
The reports were brought forward by the government to make Australia realise what really happened to the children, to reconcile with the Aboriginal population and to acknowledge and admit to what happened.
The truth of how the aboriginals were taken away from their families only came out many years after the tragic events occurred.
“My foster family and the Welfare Officer said to me that I shouldn’t get in touch with my natural family because they were not “any good” [1998, The Stolen Children: Their Stories]
When the children were taken away forcefully by the authorities, some were so young that as they grew up, the memories of their real families had faded away. The children always knew that they were a different culture to their foster families but were made to believe this was who they were and this was their real family.
Not only did the confusion come from the lies they were unknowingly being told but the other children in these families would always make them feel like they were not welcome and didn’t belong.
Psychological damage to the victims of the stolen generation is also as much of an issue now as it was back then.
In a lot of cases and evidence told to the inquiry into the stolen generation, the pain was not just emotional but also physical pain.
A grandfather returned to his home to find his children were gone. There was no indication where they had been taken and for the years that went on, he never saw them again.
One day the pain became too much and he had a breakdown. He eventually died in hospital. Either the doctors did not know the real reason as to why he really died or they lied on the death certificate to cover up the truth.
Another woman had a nervous breakdown from all she had been through.
Still to this day, the damage done to the aborigines is very strong in their hearts and minds. Many families never saw their children again because of deaths or the children never being told who they really were and growing up living a lie.
The Aboriginal Protection Act was established in 1886 however it was only set up to help with employment issues.
It wasn’t until 1995, that an inquiry to the Stolen Generation called The
National Inquiry into the separation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children from their families was introduced to Australia.
Bringing Them Home was the last report the inquiry made, the inquiry found that the percentage of children taken from their families was ten to thirty percent. The information was gathered from victims of the Stolen generation, the government and the community.
A day of rememberence and reconciliation was made in 1998 called “Sorry Day”. A day where people all around Australia can sign a book to show their regret for what the Aboriginal population had to go through.
The damage of the past can never be erased but it can help to show the world the truth, with education about the subject, people can help prevent this happening again and learn how we can help rebuild the lives of the Aboriginal population who’s lives have been shattered.
These days the government of Australia has introduced intergration, with government and financial support it may help the indigenous population to gain quality in social measures like education and health.