Reparations for the Stolen Generations

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The purpose of this essay is to explore and analyse the issue of compensation or reparations for members of the Stolen Generations. First, a brief overview of the National Inquiry into the Separation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children from their Families Inquiry (referred to as the Bringing Them Home Report or the Inquiry) will be provided including the key recommendations drawn from the Inquiry. Second, current reparations that have been offered to Indigenous people within Australia and abroad will be analysed. Finally, from the information gathered the appropriateness of existing reparations will be discussed and recommendations will be made.

The Inquiry was “established in response to concerns among Indigenous agencies and communities that the Australian practice of separating Indigenous children from their families had never been formally examined” (HREOC, 2007). The Inquiry gathered evidence from a number of individuals and organisations including, but not limited to, Indigenous individuals, government and church representatives, government staff (eg. police and doctors) and academics (HREOC, 2007; add more refs). The scope of the Inquiry was to address key areas of concern regarding the removal of Aboriginal children relating to the laws, policies and practices that resulted in removal and their effects, whether the (then) current laws and practices were adequate enough to help people affected by past removal, factors needing consideration regarding compensation and whether the (then) current laws and policies needed adapting or changing (HREOC, 2007; Ellis, 1996).

The results of the Inquiry uncovered, among other things, cases of sexual and physical abuse, harsh institutional conditions, basic education, loss of heritage and culture. The Inquiry led to the Bringing Them Home Report (BTHR), which outlined 54 recommendations. The categories of recommendation included acknowledgement and apology, guarantee against repetition, restitution, rehabilitation, monetary compensation and implementation (HREOC 2007; add more refs).The removal of Aboriginal children from their families under the notion of ‘assimilation’ and supported by the legislation and policy referred to as ‘Protection’ and ‘Welfare’ was a blatant attempt at genocide1 which is considered by the United Nations (UN) Human Rights Committee as a gross human rights violation (Sculthorpe & Mansell, 2008; Ellis, 1996; Pritchard, 1998).

Compensation tends to focus on monetary compensation whereas reparation2 is an umbrella term that encompasses all of the categories mentioned above. In light of what the Stolen Generations experienced and what was denied to them they deserve more than basic monetary compensation which is still being withheld by the majority of Australia.

The BTHR made clear the expectation that Indigenous people involved in the Stolen Generations be granted reparations following the aforementioned practices inflicted upon them. Not meeting the requirement of providing reparations would be contrary to Australia’s international human rights obligations (Durbach, year? add refs). Nevertheless, little has been done to implement the BTHR recommendations (ref here). Although the Howard government projected a strong focus on reconciliation, they failed to recognise the relationship between justice and reconciliation. Howard’s refusal to apologise based on previous governments wrongdoings meant that very little could be done in the way of reconciliation. Without an apology the healing process for many Indigenous people affected by the Stolen Generations were unable to progress. (Durbach, add more). The Howard government did offer restitution in the form of a $63 million fund 6 months after the BTHR was published. This was to go towards reuniting divided Aboriginal families and the setting up of a national archive in order to trace the devastated communities and preserve the minority of Aboriginal languages still spoken today...
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