Kerry White: Indigenous No campaigner describes the Stolen Generation as a ‘mistruth’

Pictured: A 1934 newspaper clipping advertising indigenous children for adoption

The Stolen Generations were Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children forcibly removed from their families, as recently as the 1970s.

The first Aboriginal Act was passed in Western Australia in 1905, and the Chief Protector became the legal guardian of every Aboriginal and ‘half-caste’ child under the age of 16.

Similar laws were soon passed in other states and territories, including the New South Wales Aborigines Protection Act in 1909, and in 1911 the South Australia Aborigines Act and the Northern Territory Aboriginals Ordinance.

From the time the first act was passed until 1970, between one in ten and one in three indigenous children were removed from their families or communities.

In 1937 a Commonwealth/State ‘native welfare’ conference made assimilation the national policy.

‘The destiny of the natives of aboriginal origin, but not of the full blood, lies in ultimate absorption … with a view to their taking their place in the white community on an equal footing with the whites,’ the policy stated. 

By 1967 a referendum was held to amend the Australian constitution, establishing laws for Aboriginal people who were also included in the census for the first time.

Two years later, all states had repealed legislation allowing for the removal of Aboriginal children for ‘protection’. 

In 1975 parliament introduced the Racial Discrimination Act, making discrimination based on race unlawful regardless of state or territory legislation.

Eight years later the Aboriginal Child Placement Principle was established, ensuring indigenous children were placed with indigenous families when adoption is necessary.

By 1997 the parliaments and governments of Victoria, Tasmania, ACT, New South Wales, South Australia and Western Australia all issued public apologies to the Stolen Generations.

A report titled Bringing Them Home tabled in Parliament recommended that then-Prime Minister John Howard apologise to the Stolen Generations but he chose not to.

The first Sorry Day was held on May 26, 1998, remembering and commemorating the mistreatment of the country’s Aboriginal people.

A memorial to the Stolen Generations was unveiled in 2004, and in 2006 a Stolen Generations compensation scheme was set up in Tasmania.

On February 13, 2008, then-Prime Minister Kevin Rudd delivered a public apology to the Stolen Generations.