An advisement letter to the Prime Minister of Australia recommending an apology to the Aboriginal people for the pain and heartache caused by the Stolen Generation.
120 West Abigail St.
5 December 2007
Prime Minister Kevin Rudd
Dear Prime Minister,
The Aboriginals and the westerners have been interacting since Australia was colonized. When the British came to colonize Australia they didn’t think of the repercussions their actions would have on the native culture. They knew only what they brought with them. They divided up the land, taking the best for themselves naturally, and decided the natives could move. What they didn’t understand was that the Aboriginal tribes lived in family groups and their spirits would return to the land their family lived on when they died. When the colonists moved in, the aborigines felt the need to protect their ancestry from the invaders. In addition to this, the westerners brought disease and influenza, cut down forests, and exhausted water holes. Soon “white settlers and Aborigines were at war for… land and water” (http://library.thinkquest.org/28994/abhistory.html). Aboriginals were told where to live and were not even considered citizens until 1967. [Think about that for a second… this is around the same time the U.S. was introduced to the John F. Kennedy assassination, The Beatles, Martin Luther King Jr., and Elvis Presley. The world had been through two world wars and fought for the rights of various nations. The Australian natives gained their rights only two years before NASA landed Neil Armstrong on the moon! Can you imagine such a world with so many advancements and yet so far behind?] The upset in the Aboriginal culture begun all the way back in 1788 and progressively worsened over time.
By living in close proximity with each other, the two cultures began to mingle. A new nationality was created: half Aborigine and half white. The Australians disliked the idea of this race embracing their Aboriginal heritage. In an attempt to promote assimilation, these children were taken and educated in the western culture. Gaining popularity in 1909 through 1969 the government allowed for the forced removal of children with mixed Aboriginal and white backgrounds. They were often taken by force and without a warrant. This caused traumatic stress for both the children and their families. This event was left a festering sore by history and called the “Stolen Generation.”
Being a part of the Stolen Generation completely changed one’s life. It’s not as simple as saying you’re sorry after a time out like a child. Innocent people’s lives were forever changed, never to know the original outcome. In most cases across the country the outcome of the children’s family replacement was extremely negative. In many of the cases the children were mentally, physically, or sexually abused by their new families. This caused traumatic instances and negatively influenced the way they lived their lives. Similar to the situation with African Americans in the United States, they were sold to white families and unfortunately were virtually used as slaves. Some of the kids found their way back home years later, but most never saw their families ever again.
The policy of the Stolen Generation “…broke important cultural, spiritual and family ties which crippled not only individuals, but whole families and even whole communities” (http://reconciliaction.org.au/nsw/education-kit/stolen-generations/). The policy had a lasting impact on the treatment of the Aboriginal people. As a result of the terrible conditions the children were forced to endure caused depression, anxiety, post traumatic stress, and suicide are common among the stolen. These people have to endure these mental handicaps for the rest of their lives. Aborigines still have trouble accessing adequate health care, housing, and even food and water (http://china.hrw.org/press/news_release/letter_to_australian_prime_minister_kevin_rudd). Life expectancy and the infant mortality rate of Aborigines are very poor today as well. These past actions have been carried by their bearers into the present. The Stolen Generation also feels a sense of “cultural alienation.” They didn’t find out their cultural background until later in their lives and now they do not feel they fit into their own culture. Unfortunately the westerners succeeded in wiping out the culture in this generation of aborigines.
What occurred in this chapter of the history of Australia is terrible and unforgivable. There isn’t a reason why one should not apologize for these actions. It was not moral to take these people’s lives away from them. Prime Minister John Howard stated the “current generation should not be responsible for the mistakes of the past.” If we are not responsible for the past how can we be responsible for the future? How will we learn? I believe a formal apology should be made as soon as possible. An apology is necessary for our country to grow. Most Aborigines are only looking for an apology to know that they are accepted and an important piece of Australia.
Prime Minister Kevin Rudd did issue a formal apology to the Aboriginal people for the loss and poor treatment of those included in the Stolen Generation soon after he was brought into office.
Archie Roach is a member of the Stolen Generation. He began writing and singing songs about his experiences. This is his 1987 hit, Took the Children Away, which launched him on an upward musical career. He says, "I still feel the pain, every day. Sometimes it threatens to engulf me. But I'm not going to let it destroy me."
It’s a beautiful song with a good message.