Stolen Generation Essay Ideas For To Kill

Effects on those who were stolen

Members of the Stolen Generations often suffer from a range of problems.

Searching for family. Aboriginal people of the Stolen Generations are still looking for their families [1]. This personal ad also documents that children were taken until the late 1970s.

  • Loneliness.
  • Low self esteem and feelings of worthlessness.
  • Loss of identity. Carol Kendall’s thoughts reflect both the positive and negative side of not being told one’s identity: “When I was told I was Koori… I felt wonderful because this was the first information I had about who I was, me the real person, and I was Koori. I also felt frightened too because my skin was fair and I thought I wouldn’t be accepted by other Koories.” [30]

    I have no identity really.—Cynthia Sariago, daughter of a stolen woman [3]

  • Poorer education. Because they were brought up to be servants or labourers, members of the Stolen Generations often received a poorer education and are more likely to be unemployed. [33]
  • Legal problems. Aboriginal ex-footballer Sydney Jackson’s “exact age cannot be guaranteed” because “no reference to the birth of Sydney Jackson can be found”. His birthday was “simply assumed” to be July 1, 1944 [2]. As a consequence people like Syd have problems applying for legal documents such as passports.
  • Mistrusting everyone. Aboriginal elder Prof Lowitja O’Donhoghue for example has a tendency to hold something of herself back from everyone but a selected few [19]. Having been brought up in an institution she never had a family in the traditional sense. Others became so paranoid that they didn’t allow their family members to take food or gifts from people, because they thought these would be laced with poison, which actually happened when they were young. [34]
  • Not visiting medical services. Aboriginal families expecting a child avoid seeking help to deliver their baby because they deeply distrust health services that continue to take children. “I still see families who don’t come to services because they are terrified they won’t get to take their baby home,” says midwife Vanessa Smith, from the Woronora nation. Nurses and midwives had been integral to the policies that created the Stolen Generations. [35]
  • Difficulties to find their religious beliefs, because often they have been brought to many different missions where they were exposed to various denominations. Others feel a strong indoctrination of the belief system they learned.
    Many traditionally oriented people don’t know their totems which govern many aspects of their lives, for example whom they can marry.

    I used to be so frightened of hell, or burning forever.—Barbara Cummings, Aboriginal health worker and Stolen Generations member [27]

  • Internal guilt because Stolen Generation members often blame their mothers and fathers for not loving and caring for them, based on incorrect or sparse information supplied by foster parents and government institutions. Many ultimately find out that their parents never stopped trying to reunite with them [4].
  • Anguish of searching for their identity. For some, when they are reunited with a parent after many years (sometimes decades), the reunion turns into another perceived hurt and rejection when they find they cannot, or the parent does not want to, bond with them.

    I met my mother for the first time when I was in my 30s, and it was sad because too much time had passed, and it was hard to make a connection.—Aunty Maria Starsevik, taken aged two [4]

    I didn't see my mother again until I was 35.—Brian Morley, taken aged two [4]

    Too much water had passed under the bridge. We became mother and daughter years too late.—Elaine Randall [23]

    The Search Begins

    They had taken away my family! The child within me cried, The stolen life, the agony Of many a year gone by. The cover up; the pretence. The falsehood: All those lies. Didn't they know I'd find out the truth one day, And now I just ask WHY? All their words and all their kindness Can never fill the pain. Can I ever trust the people, That I believed in, once again? The stole me from a lifetime, My heritage. My home. My family. My identity. My spirit all alone. But to let them win, would be a sin. To give up would be a crime. I must search on. I must fight on. To find what is rightfully mine. To find my heritage; my family. My home and identity. To find the person who was lost to me. Me… the Aborigine!

    Poem by Pauline McLeod [30].

  • Substance and alcohol abuse. “Most girls became depressed, suicidal and addicted to drugs and alcohol later in life,” says Christina Green who was sent to the Parramatta Girls Home in 1970 for running away from her abusive foster parents [29].

    Our [bad] health is a legacy of our childhood.—Christina Green, former Parramatta Girls Home inmate [29]

  • Depression and other mental illnesses. Members of the Stolen Generations have over double the rate of mental illness than other Aboriginal Australians. [33]

    Many boys were told that their mother or their father (quite often both) was dead, when in fact they were alive. Being told this news caused many to suffer severe depression… Some boys lost all hope and just wanted to die.—Bill Simon, taken away aged 10 [5]

    I was hurting and had found no way of safely healing the pain. So I turned the pain, anger, resentment and bitterness inwards and did what so many of us do, which is to punish and hurt ourselves. Despite being loved, I choose to suffer from days of depression and I couldn't see any hope in the future.—Joy Makepeace, taken away aged less than a year old [17]

  • Difficulties parenting or filling any communal role. “As a child I had no mother’s arms to hold me. No father to lead me into the world… We had few ideas about relationships. No-one showed us how to be lovers or parents.” [6] They are unable to show love to their families and lost the ability to accept the love of their children, often because they are frightened to accept love. [33] Consequently many relationships of members of the Stolen Generations fail, dragging their children into a vicious cycle of foster parents. It is vital, therefore, to find family members for children in care or a new Stolen Generation grows up not knowing their parents. Afraid of being judged unfit parents, they are not seeking support for any of their problems. [33]

    We never heard the words 'I love you', so we never learned to say them to our family… or feel them. We became empty vessels, out of touch with our feelings.—Sharyn Egan, member of the Stolen Generations [18]

    My mother did not bond with her mother and I did not bond with mine.—Barbara Cummings, member of the Stolen Generations [27]

    We kept coming across a pattern of Stolen Generation members whose children, then grandchildren and even their great-grandchildren had ended up in care.—Glendra Stubbs, CEO Link-Up [7]

  • Short family tree. Many Aboriginal people in rural and urban areas can’t go further than two generations into their Aboriginal family tree [20]. Consequently they do not know where to go to seek support for anything; they no longer belong to a community, hold no memories of belonging to one and are not able to draw on the strengths of a community to help them. [33]

    A lot of us have lost our immediate family, so the girls from [children's home] Cootamundra are my family.—Elaine Randall [23]

  • Unable to manage relationships because they have never had a role model to learn from. Many relationships are violent and abusive (many abused become abusers).

    He witnessed and suffered abuse that left emotional and physical scars so deep they would have a lasting impact on his life and all his relationships.—Bill Simon, taken aged ten [8]

  • Intergenerational traumas: Parents pass their traumas on to their children. “We need to recognise that the impact on the Stolen Generations has transferred from one generation to the next,” says Richard Westen, CEO of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Healing Foundation [21]. Families and children are impacted with “the same trauma, grief and loss”.

    A Western Australian child research survey showed “beyond doubt” the collective harm of being raised in a household affected by forcible removals [24]. 40% of Aboriginal children aged 0-18 are raised in a household where either a parent or a grandparent has been forcibly removed.

    The fear I carry and the aversion I feel towards governmental departments is due entirely to inter-generational trauma. My mother carries this fear, my grandmother carried this fear, my great-grandmother carried this fear.—Kelly Briggs, Aboriginal mother [31]

    I know families who, if they see a stranger walk in their front yard, all run to the back of the house--grandmother, mother, son and grandson.—Kim Hill, CEO Northern Land Council and former ATSIC Commissioner [9]

  • Criminal offences which bring them to the attention of police and courts. In 1995, one in 10 Aboriginal people over 24 had been taken away from their families as children, and this group experienced far higher arrest rates [26]. A study found that 80% of Aboriginal prisoners in NSW were affected by the removal policies [28].
  • Abuse which can be physical, emotional, sexual or of substances.

    I was given the first hug of my life in a women's environment which I didn't know anything about… It tore me apart because not understanding what a hug is, and to be given that all of a sudden by someone, you suddenly realise someone cared about you, but it wasn't that. It was abuse, as a 12-year-old.—Elder Mary Terszak, member of the Stolen Generations [10]

  • Violence which can be domestic or intrinsic (leading to suicide). Mothers of the Stolen Generations living in remote areas are 3 times more likely to experience violence than other Aboriginal mothers [11]. They stay longer in violent relationships because they cannot bear their families being broken up again and their children growing up without a mother or a father. [33] Due to the limited focus on healing the relationship between Stolen Generations and their communities there is more lateral violence resulting in increasing isolation. [33]

    43 of the 99 people whose deaths in custody were investigated in the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody had been separated from their natural families as children [28].

    Simon recounts…the time he first tasted alcohol, and how that, and later on harder drugs, worked to numb him of the blinding rage and violence he felt.—Bill Simon, taken aged ten [8]

  • Loss of cultural affiliation. Since they were often denied any traditional knowledge, many Stolen Generations members find it difficult to take a role in the cultural and spiritual life of their Aboriginal communities. “I don’t know nothing about my culture. I don’t know nothing about the land and the language,” says Cynthia Sariago whose mother passed away. “It’s hard going back [to your home country] because you’re not really accepted by your mother’s traditional people.” [3]

    This is particularly true when someone who was removed has grown up overseas and taken on the accent of that country. “When she speaks it floors people to hear the different accents, and it’s another barrier to reconnecting,” says Gillian Brannigan, national co-ordinator for the National Stolen Generations Alliance [22].

    I can remember when I was 16 and a big group of Aboriginals were walking towards me and I was terrified. I was green as grass. You had no knowledge of the outside world. All you was taught was house keeping.—Iris Clayton, Stolen Generations member [30]

  • Deep distrust of government, police and officials which continues to shape community relationships to these bodies.
  • Loss of language: “Many of us eventually lost our language… When some of us finally met our parents, it was almost impossible to bridge the language and culture gap.”, says Uncle George Tongerie, who had been placed in Colebrook Home at Quorn, SA [12].

    Lee Nangala, 46, daughter of a member of the Stolen Generations recalls: “I remember saying over and over again to Mum, ‘...How come we don’t have a language, Mum?... Mum, where do I come from?’” [13]

  • Loss of land. Not only can they sometimes not remember where their traditional land is, but in breaking the continuous practice of customs they are not entitled to claim native title over their land.
  • Strangers to their family. Some siblings were put into the same institution without knowing the other kids were their siblings. They grew up to be strangers to their own family members, even later in life. [32]
  • Chronic pain. Trauma and difficult childhood experiences primes the nervous system to interpret danger which can become part of the reasons for chronic pain. Many who suffer chronic pain had stressful, adversarial childhoods.

Many members of the Stolen Generations also had their wages stolen from them.

I suspect I'll carry these sorts of wounds 'til the day I die. I'd just like it not to be so intense, that's all. —Bringing Them Home - Community Guide, the effects

Effects on family members who were not stolen

Many parents, grandparents and family members never recovered from the distress of losing their children. Children who were not removed are still affected by the removal of their brothers and sisters.

Aunty Maureen Silleri has experienced this and can tell you best how it was like [30]:

“My god you look like mum”

Maureen Silleri remembers what happened when her separated sisters and brothers came home.

“I was in about sixth class… and I came home and there was a young girl sitting in the chair. I walked in and looked at her and Mum said that’s your sister. There was three of us left at home and six were taken away.

I sort of looked at her and thought ‘my god, you look like Mum’ and I kept staring at her thinking that she looked so much like Mum.

It was like I knew they existed and I knew they were around but to me they were strangers. So to me it was like getting to know them all over again.”

When these siblings were talking about their experiences in institutions Maureen felt left out.

“I feel like they’re on the inside and I’m on the outside. I know I can’t experience what they have been through or have any idea of what it was like. I can’t really relate to what happened back then.”

Effects on birth parents

In hospitals it was often simply assumed by the staff that the baby would be taken from the mother soon after birth. No-one thought about what the birth mother or the birth father was feeling [30].

Usually no encouragement or support was given to the birth mother to keep her child. On the contrary, mothers were forced to give up their child.

Many stories about the Stolen Generations are testimony to how very deeply mothers suffered because their children were forcibly taken from them.

Fathers took to alcohol after some, and sometimes all, of their children were taken because they had “nothing to live for”. [32]

Some are unable to tell if their child was a boy or a girl, because a pillow was used as a barrier in the delivery room so that mothers could not even get a glimpse of their newborn child or make any form of maternal contact [30].

The Pillow

They'd placed a pillow at my face to shield you from my view They didn't care nor realise that nothing they would do Could ever ease the pain I'd feel in ever losing you. A lifetime's passed, they've lied to me They promised I'd forget But as I lie awake at night A victim of their theft There's no-one I can turn to To help me in my plight Except… another pillow I weep into every night.

Poem by Di Wellfare [30].

Birth fathers suffered too as they had often no say in what was to happen to their child.

They felt confused about the pregnancy, birth and relationship with the birth mother [30]. In many cases they had no opportunity to deal with their emotions or feelings.

Digression: Effects of removal on children’s brains

The excellent book The Brain That Changes Itself explains what happens to a child which has been removed from their mother [14].

“For children to know and regulate their emotions, and be socially connected, they need to experience [various kinds of emotional] interaction many hundreds of times in the critical period [of brain development] and then to have it reinforced later in life.”

If a child is removed before or shortly after the critical period is completed other people need to take on the role of the mother. Stolen children rarely had others helping them to soothe themselves. They had to learn to “autoregulate” themselves by “turning off their emotions”, a devastating blow to creating lasting relationships.

Children who grow up without their caring mothers, in institutions where one nurse is responsible for a group of infants, “stop developing intellectually, are unable to control their emotions, and instead rock endlessly back and forth, or make strange hand movements. They also enter ‘turned-off’ states and are indifferent to the world, unresponsive to people who try to hold and comfort them. In photographs these infants have a haunting, faraway look in their eyes.” Compare this statement to the old newspaper photograph here. These children have given up all hope of finding their parents again.

Children suffering from early trauma release a stress hormone that kills cells in the hippocampus of the brain. This makes learning and long-term memory difficult and predisposes them to stress-related illnesses for the rest of their lives. “Trauma in infancy appears to lead to a supersensitisation” which can last into adulthood.

Growing up with ghosts

Children of parents who lost loved ones often ‘grow up with ghosts’, meaning that missing family members are psychologically present but physically absent [15]. While the parents know exactly whom they lost, their children know very little of this part of their family history.

Parents worsen this problem by hiding their traumatic memories, names or photographs. When they die they leave unfillable gaps in the family’s history. “I didn’t want to bother you with some of the crap I had to put up with,” says for example the mother of Cathy Freeman [16]. Cathy is an Aboriginal Olympic gold medalist.

Aboriginal people are not the only ones suffering from such a loss of relatives and loss of past. Children of Holocaust survivors share the same experiences [15].

I grew up knowing people 'I didn't know', mourning people I think were dead, but actually never knowing for sure. —Child of a Holocaust survivor [15]

The children of survivors of great family losses find themselves left with many questions, shame and sometimes an almost obsessive desire to fill in the blank spaces of their family’s past. This motivated Cathy Freeman in 2007 to sign up for a series aired by the Special Broadcasting Service (SBS) television channel, ‘Who do you think you are’, and search for her heritage [16].

“I wanted to know more about where I came from and who I belong to because one’s history sets you on the right pathway for the future and makes you feel that bit more secure in the present,” she explained.

I can see how I am a reflection of my ancestors.—Cathy Freeman, Aboriginal Olympic gold medalist [16]

With this sentence Cathy explains how getting to know her ancestry helps her understand her own personality. Her search gives her a sense of purpose and helps her pass on a complete picture of her past to future generations: “It was important for me to know it so that I can share it with my children some day.”

A relative or descendant of one of the four million Jews or political prisoners that Hitler exterminated in his death camps stands a better chance of learning the fate of his relatives than an Aboriginal person trying to piece together his or her family history.—John Danalis in 'Riding The Black Cockatoo', comparing the extensive records Nazis kept about their victims to poor or non-existent records in Australia.

Lifelong search for family. Family members who only exist on paper can cause a lot of pain and stress. Source: [25]


1 Introduction: “sorry day” – Australia’s “man’s walk on moon”

2 Background information about indigenous Australians and their status in society

3 Racial theories and the lasting consequences for native Australians

4 The half-caste – fear of a “mixed race”
4.1 Reasons for its formation and the threat it constituted
4.2 Finding a solution

5 Political, legal and public actions concerning the indigenous people
5.1 The Aborigines Department and its Chief Protector A. O. Neville
5.2 The execution of racial ideas with limited resources
5.3 Different perspectives on racial philosophy
5.4 Noteworthy acts, conferences and reports affecting the lives of Aboriginal people

6 Summary of the film “Rabbit-Proof Fence” by Phillip Noyce

7 Mission camps – a place to keep the natives
7.1 The procedure of being brought to the missions and political ideas
7.2 Zooming in on the missions
7.2.1 Moore River Native Settlement
7.2.2 Sister Kate’s Home for Nearly White Children and personal evaluation

8 The consequences of removal for the Aboriginal culture and the situation today

9 “Stolen” by Jane Harrison – a drama summarising the “Stolen Generations” issue

10 The question of genocide

11 Compensation and comparison to other Commonwealth states

A. Acts and reports that concern(ed) the “Stolen Generations”
B. Chief Protectors in Western Australia
C. Map of mission camps mentioned in the text
D. Mendelian inheritance as applied by A. O. Neville
E. A poem

Select bibliography

Table of figures

1 Introduction: “sorry day” – Australia’s “man’s walk on moon”

On February 13th 2008, the Australian Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, held his milestone “sorry speech” in Parliament:

“[Today,] we reflect in particular on the mistreatment of those who were stolen generations – this blemished chapter in our nation’s history.

We apologise especially for the removal of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children from their families, their communities and their country.

For the pain, suffering and hurt of these stolen generations, their descendants and for their families left behind, we say sorry.”[1]

From at least 1905 to the late 1960s[2], the government of Western Australia – as well as any other Australian state – systematically removed approximately 7,100 children of Aboriginal descent[3] from their families to be “raised as white children” for the purpose of forced integration.[4]

In December 1992 Paul Keating, then Prime Minster of Australia, officially acknowledged on the occasion of the “International Year for the World’s Indigenous People”: “We took the children from their mothers.”[5]

Sixteen years later, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd resumed Keating’s elementary efforts and apologised to the so-called “Stolen Generations”. Before his inauguration, he had promised to say “sorry” for “the injustices of the past”[6] and confront “one of the darkest chapters in Australia’s history”[7].[8]

illustration not visible in this excerpt

Picture 28: Kevin Rudd (right) and Lowitja O’Donoghue (left)

Tens of thousands of spectators gathered to watch the historical moment on large-scale video displays in all major cities[9] or joined the event as one of over 1.3 million viewers on TV[10] at home throughout the country. Almost every Australian newspaper covered its front page and included special editions with large pictures of cheering crowds together with individuals who were moved to tears.[11]

For Australia, this was a long awaited and hoped for day. Mrs Baker, a woman of Aboriginal descent living in New South Wales, said that for her, the speech had the significance of man’s walk on moon.[12] In addition, the European edition of the “Time Magazine” nominated Kevin Rudd as one of the world’s 100 most influential people in 2008 in the category “Leaders & Revolutionaries” for his “great achievement”.[13]

Except for Mr Howard, all four living ex-PMs were present to witness Rudd’s “sorry speech” on February 13, 2008. Rudd insisted on alluding to his disaccord with his predecessor. Howard had argued that he rejected to take, what he called, a “black armband view” of Australian history by overemphasising the short period of time when children were removed from their families.[14]

Rudd countered this view in his speech:

“This is not, as some would argue, a black-armband view of history; it is just the truth: the cold, confronting, uncomfortable truth – facing it, dealing with it, moving on from it.”[15]

Moreover, he reasoned that the last atrocities still occurred in the 1970s – “not exactly a point of remote antiquity”[16].

Others, like the Liberal senator Ian Macdonald, saw it from a more individualistic point of view telling Parliament “[…] he could not apologise for things that happened 60 years ago, because he was not personally responsible.”[17]

All this demonstrates that Australia still has to deal with a largely unsettled as well as controversial chapter in its history, and this year it is topical again after more than ten years of silence[18]. By focusing on the largest Australian state, Western Australia, I narrowed down this vast research field. The focus is primarily upon this state since it has a high indigenous population and might have provided the intellectual basis for the elaboration of racial theories and purpose-run missions in the 20th century. Throughout this paper, I have chosen to include testimonies that represent a wider opinion or illustrate the facts.

Many renowned historians have already examined the issue of the “Stolen Generations”. Therefore, it cannot be the ambition to work out new facts but rather to present a contextual and explanatory compilation of the collected material and its critical evaluation.

2 Background information about indigenous Australians and their status in society

When the first British settlers arrived in Australia in 1788[19], they shared the continent with approximately 750,000 native inhabitants[20], whom they called Aborigines. Archaeological findings prove that the “first people”, as the natives like to call themselves, have been populating the continent for over 45,000 years[21] emigrating from South East Asia via a former land bridge across the Timor Straits[22]. Recent studies even go as far as dating the arrival of the first humans on the fifth continent at around 100,000 years before today.[23] In any case, experts concur that the Aborigines are the world’s oldest continuing culture.[24][25]

illustration not visible in this excerpt

Picture 325: “Colonisation” by Lawry Love, 2001

Before the colonisation, the native’s cultural life was already well advanced including complex rituals and an effective way of passing on their history orally, which today is known under the term of “Dreamtime”. On the other hand, as exterior factors never required any modification in their traditional lifestyle as hunters and gatherers, they soon became prey to the superior military equipment of the Europeans. Skirmishes were frequently resolved by violence as the Aborigines were simply seen as primitive savages or even cannibals[26], who did not deserve much sympathy or pity in the eyes of the English. Thus, when the “invaders” decided in 1805 that Aborigines could be shot[27] legally, many pioneers embraced the opportunity to ruthlessly win farmland and secure their settlements by driving out the natives[28].

Another reason for their rapid decimation was the outbreak of fast spreading diseases to which they showed no immunity whatsoever. Subsequently, the epidemic of smallpox in 1789 is reported to have killed hundreds of natives.[29]

Ultimately, the indigenous population was reduced by half a million[30] until 1900, which equals a decline of nearly 80% within a century[31].

In 2006, a national census counted 455,000 indigenous people[32] of which a ninth are of mixed descent[33].

In general, the white Australians lived in perfect ignorance of the natives, desiring as little contact as possible[34], and denying them all civil rights[35]. Consequently, the relationship between the two cultural groups exacerbated continuously.[36]

This condescending behaviour did not change until the 20th century when the government became conscious of the failed, i.e. habitually undesired, integration of Aborigines into “white society” and took interest in the matter out of different motives, which will be explained in subsequent chapters.

illustration not visible in this excerpt

Picture 436: Aboriginal camp in the outback

Nowadays, as I was able to observe myself three years ago, indigenous Australians often live on the fringes of society. One of the great problems in Aboriginal society is that a large number depends on welfare.[37] Accordingly, they form the most disadvantaged ethnic minority in Australia concerning issues such as bad health and low life expectancy, poor education and high crime rates even though the government makes considerable efforts and contributions to improve their situation and make up for past mistakes.[38] Thus, the government has banned liquor and pornography in a growing number of Aboriginal communities in order to control child sex and alcohol abuse problems[39], both of which can be found in almost every Aboriginal community[40].

Another phenomenon frequently indentified in modern Australia is racism[41], especially in the rural areas[42]. The reasons for this can be traced back to the early 20th century of the young nation’s history, which will be delineated in the following chapters.

3 Racial theories and the lasting consequences for native Australians

For centuries, the native people of Australia have been suffering from constant humiliation, subjugation and expulsion caused by European settlers. Some tried to fight back while others welcomed the British. Whatever they did, they were soon dominated and directed by the colonists.

The roots for the settlers’ harsh conduct lay in their belief that the European race, hence people with lighter skin colour, were superior to any “blacks”, who were considered as evolutionary primitive and thus closer to animals than to humans or rather themselves.[43][44]

illustration not visible in this excerpt

Picture 544: “Australian types” from “The New Student’s Reference Work”, 1914.

When Charles Darwin published his bestselling book “The Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection”[45] in the mid 19th century, it seemed to justify and confirm the perceptions of the early settlers. Darwin advocated the radical and blasphemous concept that life, as we know it, was not created by God but is the result of a continuous selective progress. Accordingly, he said, life was a competitive struggle of each species to survive and reproduce. However, those beings which are the least adapted to a given environment will soon be driven out by the kind that has an evolutionary advantage. This process of “natural selection” became known under the catchword of “The Survival of the Fittest”[46], applied by Herbert Spencer[47].

Darwinism in Europe inspired the “doomed race” theory in Australia in the early 20th century promoting racial and eugenic thinking that soon became part of politics.

Consequently, it was “generally agreed” by the Aboriginal administrators of the State and the Commonwealth governments at a meeting in Canberra in 1937 that the “tribal Aborigines were destined to become extinct no matter what policy might be adapted”.[48] Along these lines, it would just be a question of time before the much larger population on the mainland would face its sealed fate, too. According to Robert Manne, an Australian scholar, this dogma entrenched deeply into national consciousness, determined, and maybe explains the future governmental decisions concerning the half-castes.[49]

The Australian Institute of Family Studies assesses that even today children especially suffer from “institutional, cultural and personal” racism.[50] Reasons can often be attributed to wrong or insufficient state intervention in the fields of juvenile delinquency and welfare leading to lower educational attainment, lower income levels, or chronic unemployment.[51]

Today, the superior-inferior conflict continues just on a different scale. Officially, the government does all in its power to support the Aborigines whereas when establishing a housing programme, for example, it seems to neglect that the indigenous people of Australia never used to live in houses. It simply assumes that it is the wish of all natives to accept the white man’s habits and break with their own culture. For the Aborigines it must appear like a vicious circle because they need the welfare to live, however they have to give up their traditional lifestyle to enable this. They are trapped between two cultures to neither of which they have full access.

The derivation of this “clash of cultures”, as it might be called, shall be outlined in the following chapters.

4 The half-caste – fear of a “mixed race”

4.1 Reasons for its formation and the threat it constituted

Against all expectations, the natives did not die out as predicted. Even though the number of full-blood Aborigines still decreased, there was a new “worrisome” development that increasingly became part of public controversy. Since there was a constant lack of women in the rough new world[52], many men – especially in the outback[53] – appreciated the company of Aboriginal women (whom they usually left after a short period of time). Unfortunately, these “relationships” took, more often than not, the shape of rapes.[54] As a result of these intercultural “encounters”, there was a rising number of so-called “half-caste” children, meaning the offspring of an European and an Aborigine.[55]

It was dreaded that, if the process were not brought to a halt, the continent would soon be populated by a mixed, dark-coloured race. Dr Cecil Cook, who became Chief Protector of Aborigines in the Northern Territory, wrote an essay in 1932 entitled “The Half-Caste Problem”, in which he expressed his anxiety: “‘In a matter of 15 or 20 years Half-Castes will have reproduced sufficiently to become a predominate part of the local population.’”[56] At least, so “The Perth Sunday Times” newspaper warned in 1927, there was the danger of the formation of a “‘pathetic sinister third race’”[57]. Nevertheless, there were several scientists at the time who confirmed that there was no racial atavism to the Aboriginal side through interracial breeding, which later on favoured A.O. Neville’s absorption model.[58]

4.2 Finding a solution

There were different proposals on how to deal with the up-coming “crisis” and the fear of having, as A.O. Neville, Native Administrator of Western Australia, argued, “‘[…] a population of 1,000,000 blacks in the Commonwealth […]’” in the future[59]. One of them was the sterilisation of all half-castes, which was recommend by an Under-Secretary in Queensland, but quickly rejected because it did not conform to British policy tradition.[60] Another suggestion, put forward by Henry Prinsep, was to simply relocate the natives to isolated reserves where the risk of miscegenation was lower. As it turned out, this was not a long-term solution since it did not address the prevailing problem nor did it keep the number of half-castes from rising[61], which was especially “worrisome” in the south.[62]

It was eventually decided to adopt Neville’s scheme of merging the natives into the white community and forgetting “‘[…] that there ever were any aborigines in Australia’”[63], a concept he called “biological absorption”[64]. What stood behind the idea was a rigorous marriage control system, in which the semi-Indigenous needed the consent of their legal guardian to become engaged.[65] He was convinced that after roughly three generations of careful crossing[66] the black colour could be bred out[67]. Therefore, “‘[…] we should do all in our power to prevent a half-caste marrying another half-caste, and to encourage him to look higher,’”[68] as Dr H. Cecil Bryan, a local medical practitioner, put it. Using the pen name “Physicus”, he published an influential article in the “West Australian” newspaper advocating “‘the application of Mendelianism[69] ’ as the ‘only solution to the problem of the half-caste.’”[70] Obviously, his notion went hand in hand with Neville’s plans.

The first step to accomplish this goal was to remove the children from the Aboriginal communities to provide them with appropriate housing, food and education. Dr W. E. Roth, who was appointed as the first Northern Protector of Aborigines in 1898[71], commented on the issue as follows:

“‘There is a large number of absolutely worthless blacks and half-castes; if they are taken away young from their surroundings of temptation much good might be done with them.’”[72]

For many officials, the mixed-blood children represented a new serious problem because they were at least half-European but they were still instructed in the native’s traditional lifestyle, which equalled a racial degradation for the European half – thus, the local protector James Isdell thought:

“‘The half-caste is intellectually above the aborigine, and it is the duty of the State that they be given a chance to lead a better life than their mothers. I would not hesitate for one moment to separate any half-caste from its aboriginal mother, no matter how frantic her momentary grief might be at the time. They soon forget their offspring.’”[73]

At first sight, the procedure may seem arrogant and condescending. Nevertheless, Dr Roth had “good intentions” when he advertised the taking away of Aboriginal children from the desolate districts they inhabited. Roth witnessed how the boys were exploited as unpaid workforce by the pearl industry and the girls as domestic servants, which reminded him of a virtual slave system.[74] So, his aim was rather to protect than to destroy the natives’ childhood. His recommendations were finally recorded in the 1905 Aborigines Act, which gave the government legal guardianship over the children and forced the fathers of the half-castes to pay for their children’s mission fees.[75]

Neville, too, believed in the noble virtues he pursued because the natives spent their days “‘gambling’”, “‘drinking’” and “‘doing many other things they ought not to’” out of boredom. Especially girls were exposed to seduction resulting in incest, which reflects the “growing immorality”. Hence, “Such people had ‘to be protected against themselves whether they like it or not.’”[76]

illustration not visible in this excerpt

Picture 6[77]: “Culture Shock” by Lawry Love, 2001

5 Political, legal and public actions concerning the indigenous people

5.1 The Aborigines Department and its Chief Protector A. O. Neville

In the context of child removal policy in Western Australia, there is one important personality who should be mentioned: Auber Octavius Neville, the second Chief Protector[78] in Western Australia. Theoretically, he was responsible, in the role of a mediator, for the welfare of the natives and their protection from “cruelty, oppression and injustice”[79]. In spite of this, his functions were drastically expanded by various acts, which lay the foundations for further “abuse” of his authority resulting in the establishment of mission camps and the tolerance of inadequate treatment of their occupants.[80]

On arriving in Western Australia, A. O. Neville was possessed by the thought that “humankind was a hierarchy of races” and that it was “[…] the business of government to protect and advance those thought to be ‘superior’.”[81] He remained in his position until 1940, the year of his retirement.[82]

Given knowledge of his biography, it may be easier to comprehend why he so vigorously pursued his goal to absorb all half-caste children into white society, which Anna Haebich, an expert in the field[83], referred to as “The Escalation”[84].

The first “Aborigines Department” in Western Australia was instituted in 1898 due to the 1897 Aborigines Act[85] and assumed the obligations of the British government in dealing with the indigenous people. It was the preceding agency of today’s “Department of Indigenous Affairs”.[86]

Over time, formal regulations were more and more ignored and the indigenous mothers’ rights were simply repealed. Their children “[…] could be removed by police, sent to reserves and confined indefinitely in dormitories.”[87] For example, Eileen Moseley remembers that her mother was made to sign official documents for the Welfare department even though she was illiterate.[88]

Due to lack of personnel and institutional infrastructure in the south, the new laws were applied much faster in the north. In 1915, with the appointment of A. O. Neville as Chief Protector in Western Australia, the south was included in the project of removing all children of mixed descent from their Aboriginal families, as it was already customary in the north.[89] Similarly, Neville’s successor persistently described the practice of separation as “inevitable”[90] in 1942.


[1] (Rudd 2008)

[2] (Aboriginal Legal Service of Western Australia 1995b)

[3] (Beresford and Omaji 1998², 157); A census by the Australian Bureau of Statistics in 1994 showed that 17% of the native population in Western Australia was taken away by “a mission, the government, or welfare” as minors, a percentage that is considerably higher than the national average of “just” ten percent. (Beresford and Omaji 1998², 157) (Korff 2008) A detailed table with the number of children removed in the individual states was arranged by Robert Manne on the basis of data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics: (Manne, Australians for Native Title and Reconciliation 2006)

[4] (Aboriginal Legal Service of Western Australia 1995a)

[5] (Keating 1992); His speech went down in the annals of history as “Redfern Speech”.

[6] (Rudd 2008)

[7] (Rudd 2008)


[9] (The Australian 2008c)

[10] (Wright, The Rudd identity 2008b)

[11] (The Herald Sun 2008) (The Australian 2008d) (Australia’s New Beginning 2008); Not only in Australia did the news make the headlines. Several regional and national German dailies placed the notice on their front page and devoted large articles to it: “Fränkische Landeszeitung” (Oelrich 2008), “Frankfurter Allgemeine” (Baldwin 2008) (Sturm 2008), “Die Welt” (Die Welt 2008) and “Handelsblatt” (Handelsblatt 2008) are just some diverse examples.

[12] (Rintoul 2008)

[13] (Blanchett 2008)

[14] (Franklin 2008)

[15] (Rudd 2008)

[16] (Schubert 2008)

[17] (Maiden and Stapleton 2008)

[18] PM Howard held office for 11 years, 8 months and 22 days altogether. (Parliamentary Library 2007)

[19] (The Associated Press 2008)

[20] (Rowse 2004², 312)

[21] (Astor and others 2006, 137)

[22] (Kutsch, Historical Background 2005, 5)

[23] (Hütt 2004, 22)

[24] (Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission 2008)


[26] (Biber n.d.)

[27] (Astor and others 2006, 137); A similar law was passed in New South Wales in 1816. It declared Material Law against indigenous Australian, which means that they could now be shot at if they were within a certain distance of houses or settlements. (Cameron 2000)

[28] (Australian Bureau of Statistics 2008a)

[29] (The Associated Press 2008)

[30] (Astor and others 2006, 137)

[31] (Australian Bureau of Statistics 2008a)

[32] (Steketee, Seize reconciliation momentum 2008)

[33] (Astor and others 2006, 137)

[34] (Haebich, “Clearing the Wheat Belt”: Erasing the Indigenous Presence in the Southwest of Western Australia 2004², 273)

[35] (Haebich, “Clearing the Wheat Belt”: Erasing the Indigenous Presence in the Southwest of Western Australia 2004², 278)


[37] In 2007, the unemployment rate of Indigenous lay at 14%, whereas the national average was 4.6%. (Australian Bureau of Statistics 2007) (Australian Bureau of Statistics 2008b)

[38] (The Guardian Weekly 2008)

[39] (Mercer, BBC News 2004) (BBC News 2007a)

[40] (Anderson 2007)

[41] (Peterson n.d.)

[42] The higher intolerance towards natives in rural areas might partly be explained by the higher percentage of indigenous people living in the countryside in comparison to urban places. Frictions are consequently more likely to arise there. (Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts 2007)

[43] (Wallace 2001, 161); Alfred Russel Wallace was the first to formulate the groundbreaking theory of evolution by natural selection and stood in close contact with Charles Darwin since. (King, MSN Encarta 2008a) Wallace was convinced that “[…] the mental requirements of the lowest savages, such as the [native] Australians […], are very little above those of many animals.” Furthermore, he professed that the mental capacity of Aborigines was only “[…] a little superior to that of an ape […]”. (Wallace 2001, 161)

[44] For a more profound understanding of the European idea of man at the beginning of the 20th century, please visit the following link (you will find a digitalised version of “The New Student’s Reference Work”):

[45] (Darwin, The Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection 2000); Original full title: “On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life”; first published in 1859.

[46] (King, MSN Encarta 2008b) (Darwin, The Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection 2000, 49) (Darwin, The Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection 2000, 62); In his last book “The Descent of Man, and Selection in Relation to Sex” (1871), Charles Darwin radically extended his principles on human races by predicting that “At some future period […] the civilised races of man will almost certainly exterminate and replace throughout the world the savage races.” (Darwin, The Descent of Man, and Selection in Relation to Sex 1981, 201)

[47] (Wikipedia 2008c) (Wikipedia 2008i) (Darwin, The Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection 2000, 49); Together with other known authors, Herbert Spencer’s ideas contributed to the concept of “Social Darwinism” – also known as eugenics – which applies “natural selection” (or social evolution) to human races. (Wikipedia 2008l)

[48] (Manne, Aboriginal Child Removal and the Question of Genocide, 1900-1940 2004², 219)

[49] (Manne, Aboriginal Child Removal and the Question of Genocide, 1900-1940 2004², 226); Later, discrimination against Aborigines in Western Australia went as far as divesting them of their full citizenship. To be granted British nationality, the magistrate had to be convinced that the contender “‘[…] lived […] in accordance with the standards of the white race.’” (Beresford and Omaji 1998², 88), (which included taxation) while their own laws were flouted. (Cameron 2000) The trend continued towards harsh segregation and apartheid. In the mid 1930s, the Perth municipal authorities obliged Aborigines to obtain a special pass to enter the city that was only granted to those in employment. (Beresford and Omaji 1998², 81)

[50] (D’Souza 2008); In 1994, the Task Force on Aboriginal Social Justice found that racist sentiments that, for instance, “regard ‘Aboriginal people of less value than others’” are ubiquitous in Western Australia’s popular awareness. (Beresford and Omaji 1998², 241)

[51] (D’Souza 2008)

[52] (Manne, Aboriginal Child Removal and the Question of Genocide, 1900-1940 2004², 228-230)

[53] (Manne, Aboriginal Child Removal and the Question of Genocide, 1900-1940 2004², 229)

[54] (Haebich, “Clearing the Wheat Belt”: Erasing the Indigenous Presence in the Southwest of Western Australia 2004², 278) (Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission 1997d)

[55] (Manne, Aboriginal Child Removal and the Question of Genocide, 1900-1940 2004², 226)

[56] (Manne, Aboriginal Child Removal and the Question of Genocide, 1900-1940 2004², 228)

[57] (Manne, Aboriginal Child Removal and the Question of Genocide, 1900-1940 2004², 227)

[58] (Manne, Aboriginal Child Removal and the Question of Genocide, 1900-1940 2004², 227)

[59] (Manne, Aboriginal Child Removal and the Question of Genocide, 1900-1940 2004², 219)

[60] (Manne, Aboriginal Child Removal and the Question of Genocide, 1900-1940 2004², 227) (Beresford and Omaji 1998², 45); The assertion, made by Robert Manne, that sterilisation opposed Britain’s prevalent political landscape is untenable. Between 1937 and 1972, an estimated 2,800 “unfit” individuals were castrated in the Canadian province of Alberta alone that belonged, like Australia, to the British Empire and later joined the Commonwealth. Cf. (Wikipedia 2008f)

[61] (Delmege 2005)

[62] (Manne, Aboriginal Child Removal and the Question of Genocide, 1900-1940 2004², 233)

[63] (Manne, Aboriginal Child Removal and the Question of Genocide, 1900-1940 2004², 219)

[64] (Clark 2002, 166)

[65] (Manne, Aboriginal Child Removal and the Question of Genocide, 1900-1940 2004², 230) (Beresford and Omaji 1998², 50)

[66] (Haebich, “Clearing the Wheat Belt”: Erasing the Indigenous Presence in the Southwest of Western Australia 2004², 275)

[67] (Manne, Aboriginal Child Removal and the Question of Genocide, 1900-1940 2004², 228)

[68] (Beresford and Omaji 1998², 42)

[69] Between 1865 and 1869, the Augustinian monk Gregor Johann Mendel conducted extensive crosses with peas. His theory of heredity describing the transmission of physical characteristics is considered to be the foundation-stone of modern genetics. Q. v. “D. Mendelian inheritance as applied by A. O. Neville”.

[70] (Manne, Aboriginal Child Removal and the Question of Genocide, 1900-1940 2004², 232)

[71] (Wikipedia 2008b)

[72] (Beresford and Omaji 1998², 35-36)

[73] (Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission 1997a)

[74] (Beresford and Omaji 1998², 36-37)

[75] (Beresford and Omaji 1998², 20)

[76] (Manne, Aboriginal Child Removal and the Question of Genocide, 1900-1940 2004², 233-234)


[78] (Wikipedia 2008n); Equals to the title of “Native Administrator” on page 10.

[79] (Wikipedia 2008e)

[80] (Wikipedia 2008e)

[81] (Beresford and Omaji 1998², 34)

[82] (Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission 1997a)

[83] She wrote various essays on the topic and published two books dealing with child removals in Western Australia: “For Their Own Good: Aborigines and Government in the South West of Western Australia, 1900-1940”. Nedlands: UWA Press, 1988 and “Broken Circles: Fragmenting Indigenous families 1800-2000”. Fremantle: FACP, 2000.

[84] (Haebich, “Clearing the Wheat Belt”: Erasing the Indigenous Presence in the Southwest of Western Australia 2004², 275)

[85] (State Records Office of Western Australia 2004)

[86] (State Records Office of Western Australia 2004)

[87] (Kidd 2002, 252)

[88] (Attwood and Mellor 2002, 151)

[89] (Kidd 2002, 252)

[90] (Kidd 2002, 253); Q. v. “B. Chief Protectors in Western Australia”


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *