Twenty years ago this week, the Australian Human Rights Commission tabled in Federal Parliament a report into the forced removal of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children from their families.
Between one in three and one in ten Indigenous children were forcibly removed from their families and communities between 1910 and 1970, the Bringing Them Home report found.
Those findings remains significant because many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families continue to experience trauma as a result of past state and territory government policies to remove children from their families.
The National Inquiry into the Separation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children from their Families informed the Bringing Them Home report. The inquiry heard from 500 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, as well as from Indigenous organisations, foster parents, state and territory government representatives, church representatives and former mission employees.
The Bringing Them Home report, tabled in Parliament on 27 May 1997, includes 54 recommendations to support healing and reconciliation for the Stolen Generations, their families and the Australian public.
The family traumas reflected in that report continue to affect members of the Stolen Generation and their successors.
“Understanding the intergenerational impact of child removal is critical to addressing contemporary issues for our people,” said Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner June Oscar.
“The overrepresentation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in the out-of- home-care system is directly related to the trauma experienced by the Stolen Generations.
“Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children are 9.5 times more likely than non-Indigenous children to be in out-of-home-care and the trend is accelerating.
“The out-of-home-care system is often a fast track for our children and young people to enter into the justice system. We need to reverse this trend.
“We can do this be ensuring our people are meaningfully engaged in decision-making, and by paying closer attention to the work being done by Aboriginal-controlled health organisations to make families safer and to keep families together.
“There is no doubt in my mind that we need to focus on adequate funding, prevention and accountability measures to support our families,” Commissioner Oscar said.
A new report released this week by the Healing Foundation outlines four priorities to achieve long-term change. Bringing Them Home, 20 Years On, urges the Federal Government to:
• Conduct a comprehensive needs analysis to inform the delivery of more effective services for Stolen Generations members
• Establish a national scheme for reparations to ensure equal access to financial redress and culturally appropriate healing services,
• Co-ordinate compulsory training around Stolen Generations trauma so that the organisations working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities are better equipped to provide effective and appropriate services.
• Initiate a comprehensive study of intergenerational trauma and how to tackle it.
Later this year, the Australian Human Rights Commission will launch an updated version of its Bringing Them Home schools resource, mapped to the Australian school curriculum.
Photo: Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull with members of the Stolen Generations, for the release of Bringing Them Home, 20 Years On. Courtesy @NACCHO Australia.