Experiences of the stolen generation
Edited from the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission Bringing them Home - The Report
The overwhelming majority of the children forcibly removed under assimilationist legislation and policies were separated from their Indigenous family, community and culture. 1) They were not permitted to use their languages.
Y'know, I can remember we used to just talk lingo. [In the Home] they used to tell us not to talk that language, that it's devil's language. And they'd wash our mouths with soap. We sorta had to sit down with Bible language all the time. So it sorta wiped out all our language that we knew. Confidential evidence 170, South Australia: woman taken from her parents with her 3 sisters when the family, who worked and resided on a pastoral station, came into town to collect stores; placed at Umewarra Mission.
2) Children were given the very strong impression their parents were worthless
`Your family don't care about you anymore, they wouldn't have given you away. They don't love you. All they are, are just dirty, drunken blacks.' You heard this daily ... When I come out of the home and come to Redfern here looking for the girls, you see a Koori bloke coming towards you, you cross the street, you run for your life, you're terrified. Confidential evidence 8, New South Wales: woman removed to Cootamundra Girls' Home in the 1940s. 3) In an attempt to force `white ways' upon the children and to ensure they did not return to `the camp' on their release, Aboriginality was denigrated and Aboriginal people were held in open contempt. This denigration was among the most common experiences of witnesses to the Inquiry. All the teachings that we received from our (foster) family when we were little, that black people were bad ... I wanted my skin to be white. Confidential evidence 132, Victoria: woman fostered at 10 years in the 1960s. 4) What education was provided generally aimed at completion of their schooling at the level achieved by a ten year old child in the State education system. It emphasised domestic science and manual training, thus preparing the children for a future as menial workers within the government or mission communities or as cheap labour in the wider community (Loos and Osanai 1993 page 20). I finished school in fifth grade. I think I was 17. I did alright at school but they wouldn't allow us to go on. They wouldn't allow us to be anything. I would have liked to be a nurse or something but when I finished school they sent me to work as a domestic on stations. Confidential submission 277, Queensland: woman removed at 7 years in 1934 to the dormitory on Palm Island.
5) The physical infrastructure of missions, government institutions and children's homes was often very poor and resources were insufficient to improve them or to keep the children adequately clothed, fed and sheltered.
There was no food, nothing. We was all huddled up in a room ... like a little puppy-dog ... on the floor ... Sometimes at night time we'd cry with hunger, no food ... We had to scrounge in the town dump, eating old bread, smashing tomato sauce bottles, licking them. Half of the time the food we got was from the rubbish dump. Confidential evidence 549, Northern Territory: man removed to Kahlin Compound at 3 years in the 1930s; subsequently placed at The Bungalow.
Dormitory life was like living in hell. It was not a life. The only thing that sort of come out of it was how to work, how to be clean, you know and hygiene. That sort of thing. But we got a lot bashings. Confidential evidence 109, Queensland: woman removed at 5 years in 1948.
On a few rare occasions the policy of assimilation as represented by taking children from their families did not result in the widespread social, physical and sometimes sexual abuse experienced by so many of the stolen generation. 6) The example of Colebrook Home in South Australia during the tenure of Matron Hyde and Sister Rutter is acknowledged. Bomaderry Children's Home is one. The key feature was the encouragement of close attachments between older girls and babies, infants and young children. As we now know, attachment to a primary carer is essential for the infant's emotional, intellectual and social development and for his or her happiness. The bonds permitted in these more enlightened institutions went some way to overcoming the many other damaging effects of institutionalisation for many Indigenous inmates. Many Colebrook people have spoken fondly of Matron Hyde and Sister Rutter. We were all happy together, us kids. We had two very wonderful old ladies that looked after us. It wasn't like an institution really. It was just a big happy family. I can say that about that home - United Aborigines Mission home that was at Quorn. Y'know they gave us good teaching, they encouraged us to be no different to anybody else. We went to the school, public school. There was no difference between white or black. Confidential evidence 178, South Australia: woman removed with her brother at 5 years in the 1930s; spent approximately 8 years at Colebrook.
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