The Stolen Generations
The Aboriginal people of Australian and the invading Europeans have a complex and troublesome past extending back to the European colonisation of Australia. Governmental policy in relation to the Aboriginal people has greatly changed over time. Unfortunately, until around the 1970s, the Aboriginals were regarded as inferior beings unworthy of basic human rights and, at times, life itself. One such time period was the Stolen Generations where tens of thousands of Aboriginal and part-Aboriginal children were taken from their families and forced into camps and apprenticeships to integrate them into white society. In 1937, the Native Welfare conference of the heads of Aboriginal administrations official changed Australian governmental policy to one of assimilation regarding the indigenous Aboriginal population (Broome, 2010, p.216). While this policy was progressive for the time, especially when compared to the previous strategy of extinction, the forceful assimilation of one culture into another is still a form of genocide.
When two diverse cultures come into contacts there can be many different results. Inevitably, one group will declare itself superior and the other group inferior. The inferior group(s) will be seen as a threat to the existing way of life of the superior group. Once dominant and subordinate groups have been established, several policies can be adopted to confront the differences. The most ideal and nonviolent strategy would be fusion, which is the combining of dominant and subordinate groups to form a new race/ethnicity. Unfortunately, cultural differences more commonly lead to conflict resulting in more oppressive procedures. Other policies such as segregation, expulsion, and secession are those that involve removing the subordinate groups from the dominant either through force or the inferior group’s willing participation. The two major strategies employed by the Australian government in relation to the Aboriginals were extinction and later assimilation. After early contact with the Aboriginal people by European settlers, it was determined they were a “doomed race” and were beyond the help of the whites; they were to be left to their own devices and naturally die out. If they became a burden on white society or expansion, then they were to be removed by any means necessary (Broome, 2010, p.106). While this policy may be considered atrocious by today’s standards, for the time period it was proven science. Darwin’s law of Social Darwinism declared inferior species will die out to make way for the progression of the superior species. Social Darwinism justified the mass genocide of the Aboriginal peoples by the white settlers (Broome, 2010, p.107). They were a weaker race and seen as vastly inferior to the believed superior European way of life, religion, technology, customs, and culture. This plan generally continued until 1937 when a new policy of assimilation was adopted.
Once a group has been determined as inferior, treating them as such is easily justified. Scientific facts of the time period such as phrenology and Social Darwinism proved that certain races and ethnicities such as the Aboriginals were inferior to the white Europeans. While we know this to be untrue today, we can easily see why the ways of the past were easily justified. Increasing laws were passed to control the Aboriginals including where they could live and who they could marry. Many invading European men came alone and claimed Aboriginal women as their own; this lead to the creation of mixed race children throughout Australia (Moses, 2004, p.91). These children were placed in a caste between both races: more evolved than aboriginals but not as evolved as whites. The growing number of half-caste children and changes in social norms lead to the abandonment of the “doomed race” theory. Instead, it was believed the Aboriginal population, most notably those of mixed descent, would be able to...
Cited: (2002). Been a lot of change but the feeling is still there. South Hedland: WANGKA MAYA Pilbara
Beresford, Q., Omaji, P. (1998). Our state of mind: racial planning and the stolen generations. Fremantle:
Fremantle Arts Centre Press
Bretherton, D., & Mellor, D. (2006). Reconciliation between Aboriginal and Other Australians: The
Broome, R. (2010). Aboriginal Australians: a history since 1788. Crows Nest: Allen & Unwin.
Haebich, A. (1992). For their own good: aborigines and government in the south west of western
Huttenbach, H. R. (2002). From the Editor: towards a conceptual definition of Genocide. Journal of
Genocide Research, 4(2), 167-175
Krieken, R. (1999). The barbarism of civilization: cultural genocide and the 'stolen generations '. British
Journal of Sociology, 50(2), 297-315
Mellor, D., Haebich, A. (2002). Many voices: reflections on experiences of indigenous child separation.
Rowse, T. (2005). Contesting assimilation. Perth: API Network.
Please join StudyMode to read the full document