At the turn of the twentieth century the systematic forced removal of Aboriginal children from their mothers, families and cultural heritage was commonplace. There were several reasons that the government and white society used to justify the separation but the prevailing ideology of nationalism and maintaining Australia for the ‘whites’ was the over-riding motivation and justification for their actions. Progressive sciences such as anthropology espoused such theories as eugenics, miscegenation, biological absorption and assimilation which legitimated governmental policies relating to Aboriginal affairs. It was perceived by white society that Aboriginal children were neglected and they were removed based on the premise that they needed protection from their community environment. It was further believed that the removal of these children was in their best interest for both the present and their future.
That Australia was a racist country at the turn of the twentieth century is both widely acknowledged and documented. The British imperialist attitude of the perception of white superiority and racial purity was transported with the convicts and perpetuated by the restriction of immigrants that were not of British or white European background. The notion of the ‘white race’ as superior to the ‘black race’ evolved sometime in the 17th century and the increase in European colonialism saw blackness become linked to inferiority, barbarism and savagery. This co-incided with the ideas of purity (white) and evil (black) and cemented the ‘black race’ as forever inferior in the minds of all whites.
McGregor has put forth the idea that the Australian people would never fully accept people of a different colour and that prejudice against appearance and colour was an inherited Australian defect and not likely to change. So deep was the contempt by white Australia for the Aboriginals that in the closing years of the nineteenth century and the first part of the twentieth century, the government and white society justified the removal of Aboriginals from their traditional lands to reserves and missions in an effort to supervise them more thoroughly. The ‘half castes’ were to be absorbed and assimilated into the greater white community in an effort the ‘breed out their colour. It was believed by white society that the best way to induce Aboriginal people to behave in a white manner was through the children who had not yet been affected by the black culture.
The first 3 decades of the twentieth century saw a growing concern for the Aboriginals as a whole over their general living conditions, poor diet, housing conditions, lack of health care and lack of employment opportunity and there was an increase in the interference by the authorities in their lives based on this observation. One of the most detrimental protection policies governing the Aboriginal people during that time was the forced removal of the children based on the premise of neglect and that Aboriginal mothers were unfit to raise their children. White society had applied their standards of family structure and social norms in their assessment of the Aboriginal lifestyle and found that Aboriginal community life was considered to be uncivilized. It was presumed by governments and white society that the only way for Aboriginal children to survive was to be removed from this environment. Legislation was further enhanced to impose state guardianship over Aboriginal children (both full blood and ‘half caste’) which then allowed the various states to remove any child it felt was being neglected and needed protection. Furthermore, children were removed because the state did not want them sitting around in comparative idleness when they could grow up and be productive laborers for a white society. Removed...