Aborigines belonging to Australia’s so-called “Stolen Generations” Tuesday accused the government of prolonging their suffering by failing to implement recommendations from a landmark report 20 years ago that investigated the forced removal from their families.
The term “Stolen Generations” refers to the thousands of indigenous children who were taken from their homes and put in foster care with white families or institutions under assimilation policies that ended only in the early 1970s. Many never saw their parents or siblings again.
The pivotal “Bringing Them Home” report in 1997, which followed a national inquiry into the tragedy, acknowledged the human rights violations suffered and set out measures to support those affected.
One of the key demands mentioned in the report was a national apology, which finally came in 2008.
But two decades on, victims said that while funding had been provided for counselling, cultural programmes and family support, they continued to face institutional racism and cited a failure to properly address mental health issues.
“For many Stolen Generations members, this has created additional trauma and distress,” “Bringing Them Home 20 Years On”, a new study by indigenous support organisation The Healing Foundation, said.
“The resulting trauma has been passed down to children and grandchildren, contributing to many of the issues faced in indigenous communities, including family violence, substance abuse and self harm.”
One of the victims, Lorraine Peeters, was taken from her family aged four and placed in the Cootamundra Domestic Training Home for Aboriginal Girls, where she was “brainwashed to act, speak, dress and think white”.
“We were not allowed to talk in our language or about culture or about our families. It wasn’t until I was in my fifties that I suffered a mental health issue, trauma. There was an Aboriginal person inside, screaming to get out,” she said.
“Behaviour is learnt. If my children are watching me have anxiety, fear, drinking issues to numb the pain, that behaviour is learnt by little people. That will continue. We have to revisit the recommendations that haven’t been implemented.”
The new report called for a national study into inter-generational trauma and a full assessment of the continuing and changing needs of Stolen Generations members as they age.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull responded to the report saying there was “much unfinished business”.
“Your report will guide us on the progress we are yet to make,” he said. “We’ll carefully consider the recommendations”.
Aborigines, whose cultures stretch back tens of thousands of years, remain the most disadvantaged Australians.
They were believed to have numbered around one million at the time of British settlement, but now make up only about three percent of the total national population of 24 million.