From the late nineteenth-century to the late 1960s – even the dates are somewhat uncertain so little do we know – Australian governments, as a practice and as a policy, removed part-Aboriginal children from their mothers, parents, families and communities, often by force. Some of these children were taken at birth, some at two years of age, some in their childhood years. The babies and children were sent either to special purpose institutions, or in later years especially, to foster homes. In some cases mothers or families knew where their children had been taken and were able to maintain some continuing connection with them. In other cases they had no idea of the whereabouts of the babies or children who had been taken from them. In some cases within the institutions and the foster homes the children were treated well, although even here, it would appear, frequently with condescension. In other cases physical mistreatment, sexual exploitation and more extreme forms of humiliation were common.
In the period before, roughly speaking, 1940, the period this essay focuses on, the part-Aboriginal children were taken from their mothers and families under separate legislation which gave unlimited guardianship to the Aboriginal protectors in their state of origin, frequently without even giving to the parents the right of appeal to a court of law. Increasingly after 1940 these part-Aboriginal children were taken from their mothers and families under the general child welfare legislation which was, however, in their cases interpreted in such a way that the practices of child removal seem to have continued much as before. Only very gradually did the custom of separating part-Aboriginal babies or children from their mothers merge with general non-Aboriginal practices concerning child abuse and neglect. This time came, probably, as late as the l970s. No-one knows exactly how many babies and children were, between the late nineteenth-century... [continues]
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