Faculty of Arts
Department of English
and American Studies
English Language and Literature
The Stolen Generation
Bachelor’s Diploma Thesis
Supervisor: PhDr. Jitka Vlčková, Ph.D.
I declare that I have worked on this dissertation independently,
using only the sources listed in the bibliography.
Table of Contents:
Table of Contents: 2
1 Australia’s Aborigines Prior to European Invasion 6
2 European Colonization and Intercultural Clashes 7
3 Solutions to the “Aboriginal Problem” 10
4 “A Dying Out Race” 12
5 The Stolen Generation 13
5.1 Dealing with the “half-castes” 15
5.2 The New Plan: “Breeding out the Color” 17
5.3 The Removal Policy in Practice 20
5.4 Life in the Institutions and Children’s Experiences 22
6 Consequences of the Child Removal Policy 25
6.1 Loss of Aboriginal Identity and Disruption of Cultural Heritage 26
6.2 Psychological Consequences 28
6.3 Inter-generational Effects 30
7 Public awareness and recognition 32
8 Conclusion 35
Works Cited 37
Throughout the nineteenth and twentieth century, theories of European racial superiority justified European colonization around the world. The colonization was inevitably accompanied by the dispossession of indigenous peoples, their cultures, religions and languages. Australia was not an exception. Australia’s history since the beginning of colonization in 1788 has been marked by intercultural clashes, struggles and misunderstandings of the European colonizers and Australia’s indigenous inhabitants, the Aborigines.
From the beginning of colonization of Australia, the integration of the Aborigines into the new society of predominantly Anglo-Saxon Europeans has been problematic. The attempts at integration have been varied. Probably the most appalling attempt was the removal of “half-caste” 1 children from their Aboriginal families. These children were taken because it was federal and state government policy that children of mixed Aboriginal and European race, should be removed from their parents in order to be assimilated into Australia’s dominant white society. The government’s intended aim was to remove “half-caste” children from their Aboriginal families at as young an age as possible, cutting them off from their families, language, and customs and to re-educate them in one of the specialized government institutions. There they would be taught the European way of life, converted to Christianity and schooled in domestic and manual labour. From the late 19th century until the 1970s over a hundred thousand “half-caste” children were forcibly removed from their families and put into institutions. These children are known as the Stolen Generation.
The separation from their families and the hardships endured by the “half-caste” children in the institutions seriously affected both their physical and mental well-being. The loss of culture and family, and the abuse experienced in the institutions has had many consequences on the future lives of the members of the Stolen Generation and many of them were unable to properly function as parents and members of the society.
In my thesis I will deal with the phenomenon of the Stolen Generation and with the child removal policy of the Australian government. I will especially focus on the consequences that this policy had on the members of the Stolen Generation and also on the future generations of Aborigines. The first part of my thesis is an introduction to the Aboriginal people and to their way of life prior to European invasion. The next chapter shows the clashes of the two cultures and the impact of European settlement on the Aboriginal community. These chapters form a wide basis for the discussion about the Stolen Generation. The following chapters deal with the Stolen Generation, including the government attempts at assimilating the Aborigines into the dominant white society, the child removal policy, the experiences of the children who were removed from their families and the consequences of the child removal policy on the Aboriginal community in Australia.
The discussion on the Stolen Generation is supplemented by available evidence, stories and experiences of the children who had been removed from their families. My aim is to illustrate the suffering of Aboriginal people and to show that the government actions and attempts to assimilate the Aborigines into the white community have lead to the breakdown of the Aboriginal community and are for a large part responsible for the troubled lives of Australia’s Aborigines today
1Australia’s Aborigines Prior to European Invasion
Archaeological evidence suggests that Aboriginal people have lived in Australia for over 50,000 years and they have settled throughout the entire continent (McGrath 9). Aboriginal people traditionally lived as hunters-gatherers in small family groups, hunting, fishing, and collecting various plant foods. Most groups were nomadic and moved from place to place in search of new food and water sources. Hundreds of Aboriginal groups were spread throughout the whole Australian continent. (“Aboriginal Australians”) The Aborigines in Australia had a deep understanding of the environment in which they lived and this connection to the land, and to its animals and plants, was present in every aspect of Aboriginal life and culture. Their belief systems, art and their way of life were strongly tied to the natural world; therefore, the Aborigines greatly respected the Nature and lived in harmony with it (“The Land”).
Unlike the European society, the Aboriginal society was not based on personal ownership; therefore, land was not something to be bought or sold. The only possessions the Aborigines owned personally were their hunting, gathering, fishing and fighting tools as a necessity for their survival (“The Land”). Except for these few items everything else, including the land, was public property. The life of each Aboriginal group was dependant on the land to provide food and fresh water. Although sources of food occurring naturally in their area were limited, the Aborigines knew precisely how to find everything they needed. Throughout the year they moved from one place to another, in order to secure enough food for their survival (Clarke 13).
Prior to European invasion, the Australian Aborigines lived a content life of hunting, gathering plants, and wandering across the land which they had occupied for thousands of years. Until the arrival of European settlers, they had maintained their characteristic way of life and cultural practices.