Moving Forward - Achieving
Reparations for the Stolen Generations
Audrey Ngingali Kinnear
Co-Chair National Sorry Day Committee and a "Stolen Generation".
Firstly, with respect
I acknowledge that I am here on the Country of the Tharawal People and
I say thank you to Marg Cook and other Tharawal members for their warm
welcome to participants of this conference on Reparations. A special
welcome to my Stolen Generation brothers and sisters and to Commissioner
Brian Butler, ATSIC's Social Justice Commissioner who has for many years
worked tirelessly for the national inquiry and continues to support
the Stolen Generations and their families in so many different ways.
Welcome also to the guests who have joined us from Canada, from New
Zealand, from the United States of America and South Africa. We look
forward to hearing from you.
Ladies and Gentlemen.
As I stand before you today, it is with hope and with apprehension. Apprehension in knowing that whatever we decide today will not be supported by the Howard Government. In 1996, my family told our personal stories to the National Inquiry into the Stolen Generations. With me, were my two sisters and brother (all born at Ooldea on the Maralinga Lands), my son Patrick, niece Annette and 10 year-old great-niece. We wanted the Inquiry to hear from the next generation of victims. The children and grandchildren of the children who grew up without their family and cultural communities. It was the first time, we heard each others stories. Like many of you, our expectations and hopes were raised.
Today and tomorrow we will be discussing the establishment of a Reparations Tribunal for the Stolen Generations. The Stolen Generations are the indigenous people who were, and are still today, victims of Australia's 'white Australia assimilation policies'. Policies that forcibly' and under duress' removed mixed race children, before the age of 6 years, from our mothers and communities, institutionalised, to exterminate all traces of their Aboriginality.
Ladies and gentlemen,
let me make it quite clear that these policies were deliberate,
'breeding out' policies. A record of the 1937 meeting of Aboriginal Protectors in Canberra, included a statement from A.O. Neville, then Commissioner of Native Affairs in Western Australia who stated that 'if we remove the "half-castes", the full bloods will die out and in 50 years time, Australia will not have an Aborigines problem.' The plan was to absorb us into white society. It was racially motivated. Eight generations of Aboriginal children were removed for assimilation. The policy continued well into the 1970s. I was removed when 4 years of age, institutionalised and separated from my family for many years. I was 28 years of age when I began reconnecting with my mother and siblings again. Institutionalisation and conditioning impacted on our identity, language, health, emotional well-being and self-esteem. The loss and grief is for lifetime. We cannot make up the lost time but we can heal the future.
Why, then Reparation. Reparation is for the terrible wrongs inflicted through lack of respect for equality of the human rights of indigenous Aboriginal peoples by colonial domination. Many children were sexually and physically abused in government and church run institutions, where they were placed for 'care'. As a result, Aboriginal people today have a life expectancy 28 years less than other Australians. .We suffer high levels of mental illness and high infant mortality rates. Although Aboriginal people are only two per cent of the total Australian population of 19 million, the prison incarceration rate and substance misuse is very high, sometimes up to 50 per cent in some communities.
The reparation, we are seeking, will aim to help heal the wounds resulting from government initiated forced removal policies. The losses are many and deep. It includes loss of identity, culture language, loss of our land and cultural community. Funding from a Reparations Tribunal will help Stolen Generations return to visit country and connect with community. It will also provide personal counselling to those who have not been able to commence their healing. Many Stolen Generations have expressed the need for memorials and land for family groups.
A Reparation Tribunal will be an historic and symbolic gesture that will help our people leave behind this painful chapter. It will also enable non-indigenous Australians to leave behind their guilt. Only then we can move forward together as a Nation.