The forced removal of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children from their families was official government policy from 1909 to 1969. However the practice took place both before and after this period. Governments, churches and welfare bodies all took part.
The removal policy was managed by the Aborigines Protection Board (APB). The APB was a government board established in 1909 with the power to remove children without parental consent and without a court order. Children could be put into an institution or mission dormitory, fostered or adopted. Many children were fostered or adopted after spending time in a children’s home.
Under the White Australia and assimilation policies Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who were ‘not of full blood’ were encouraged to become assimilated into the broader society so that eventually there would be no more Indigenous people left. At the time Indigenous people were seen as an inferior race.
Children were taken from Aboriginal parents so they could be brought up ‘white’ and taught to reject their Aboriginality. Children were placed with institutions and from the 1950s began also being placed with white families. Aboriginal children were expected to become labourers or servants, so in general the education they were provided was very poor. Aboriginal girls in particular were sent to homes established by the Board to be trained in domestic service.
The lack of understanding and respect for Aboriginal people also meant that many people who supported the child removals believed that they were doing the ‘right thing’. Some people believed that Aboriginal people lived poor and unrewarding lives, and that institutions would provide a positive environment in which Aboriginal people could better themselves. The dominant racist views in the society and government also means that people believed that Aboriginal people were bad parents and that Aboriginal woman did not look after their children.