Who spoke out at the time?
The policies and
practices of separation and removal as described in the report were never
universally approved as sometimes believed. They were in fact implemented
in the face of clear and unequivocal warnings about the potentially disastrous
and tragic consequences that may flow. From as early as 1874 warnings
were sounded about the threat to family structures and systems; the links
were clearly identified between the removal of young girl children for
domestic work, and slavery; about the lack of responsibility, authority
and supervision of those involved in the forcible removal of children,
and about the repressive conditions in which children were held.
It is not true to
say that people "did not know". People did know, but the warnings went
unheeded. Following are some excerpts from the report of some of this
Point I have heard an aborigine, who was highly educated, explaining in
the best of English how the aborigines were plundered of their rations,
robbed of their lands, and reduced to the position of slaves. I do not
say the man was right in all his contentions, but when you meet men who
understand all these things, you cannot expect them calmly to submit to
an order to take from them their girls or boys and to place them in an
Mr Scobie MP, during parliamentary debate on the Aborigines Protection
... is prejudical
to a healthly development of character and the rearing of children as
good and useful men and women. The one fatal and all-sufficient objection
to the massing of children together under the necessary conditions of
barrack life is, its utter variance from the family system recognised
by nature in the constitution of human society as the best suited for
the training of the young.
1874 Public Charities Commission Inquiry
of tender age and years are torn away from their parents ... and put to
service in an environment as near to slavery as it is possible to find.
Australian Aborigines Progressive Association, 1928
aboriginal inhabitants are treated exactly in the same way as the wild
beasts or birds the settlers may find there ... Their goods are taken,
their children forcibly stolen, their women carried away, entirely at
the caprice of the white men.
The Queenslander newspaper, 1883
of boys and girls is another serious evil ... Boys and girls are frequently
taken from their parents and their tribes, and removed far off whence
they have no chance of returning; left helpless at the mercy of those
who possessed them, white people responsible to no-one and under no supervision
by any proper authority ... Stringent legislation is required to prevent
a continuance of abuses concerning the women and children.
Archibald Meston, 1896
things the white people mean well, but they have so little understanding.
My experience has convinced me that, psychologically, the Native Department
is working on the wrong lines ... The same law that applies to the white
race should apply to the native races in that particular. I think that
is most essential. Our native mothers have all the natural feelings of
mothers the world over, and to many of them the administration of the
Native Department, by men only, is stark tragedy.
Gladys Prosser, a Noongar mother, in an interview to Perth's Sunday
Times. Later quoted in a speech to the Legislative Council by Hon.
H Seddon. Hansard 22 November 1938
captured at all ages, as infants in arms, perhaps not until they are grown
up, they are not safe until they are dead.
Mary Bennett, reporter giving evidence to the Royal Commission into
the conditions of Aborigines, early 1930's
instances I should prefer to see the children left with their parents
... the system of dealing with the parents should be improved in order
that they might keep their children. In her opinion government administrations
were forcibly removing children 'because it was cheaper than providing
the same system of support which operated for neglected white children'.
Bessie Rischbieth, giving evidence to the Royal Commission into the
conditions of Aborigines, early 1930's
opinion of station people is that it is a mistake to take these children
out of the bush. They say that the aboriginal mothers are fond of their
children and in their own way look after them and provide for them and
that when they grow up they are more easily absorbed and employed than
those who have been taken out of their natural environment and removed
The Mission Representatives
say that if the girls are left in the bush they only became the prey
of white men and mothers at a very early age. My experience has been
that removing them to towns and to institutions does not overcome this
trouble and only accentuates and increases it.
Chief Protector of Aboriginals, to Commissioner of Public Works,
27 August 1932
not and never should be occasion for the Children to be taken away from
their parents and farmed out among white people.
J C Genders, editor of Daylight (magazine), 1924
I know many
stock breeders who would not dream of crowding their stock in the way
that these half-caste children are huddled.
John McEwen, Minister of the Interior, after visiting the Half-Caste
Home in Darwin, 1937
Last updated 2 December 2001.