Bringing them Home - Chapter 19
Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission Report
Bringing them Home
Report of the National Inquiry into the Separation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children from Their Families
Part 5 Services for Those Affected
- Chapter 15 Evaluating Government Responses
- Chapter 16 Access to Personal and Family Records
- Chapter 17 Funding for Reunion Assistance
- Chapter 18 Mental Health Services
- Chapter 19 Responses of Churches and Other Non-Government Agencies
- Responses of Churches and Other Non-Government Agencies
- Access to personal and family records
- Counselling services
- Restitution of land
With the wisdom of hindsight we can only wonder how as a nation, and as a Church, we failed to see the violence of what we were doing. Hopefully, today we are more vigilant regarding the values we espouse (Catholic Church of the Diocese of Darwin submission 536 page 2).
In most cases of forcible removal government officials and agents were responsible for the removal under legislation or regulations. However, there were early cases of removal of children by missionaries without the consent of the parents. In Victoria the absence of government oversight of welfare services enabled churches and other non-government agencies to remove children from their families without any court order or other official approval.
The churches share some responsibility for forcible removals because of their involvement in providing accommodation, education, training and work placements for the children.
With hindsight, we recognise that our provision of services enabled these policies to be implemented. We sincerely and deeply regret any hurt, however unwittingly caused, to any child in our care (The Daughters of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart Australian Province submission 541 page 1).
To the best of our knowledge, at no time have the Church's child welfare services and organisations been given any legislative power or authority to forcibly or physically remove any children from their families. This is so in the case of any Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander children. We do accept that there were cases where the actions of Church child welfare services and organisations were instrumental in keeping children separate from their families and in this respect the Church holds some responsibility in playing a role for the state to keep these children separate from their families (Joint Statement to the Inquiry on behalf of the Bishops' Committee for Social Welfare, the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Catholic Council and the Australian Catholic Social Welfare Commission).
The Aboriginal Legal Service of WA advised the Inquiry that 85% of the people it interviewed who had been forcibly removed as children had spent at least part of their childhood in the care of a mission. Nationally the proportion is probably somewhat lower.
The experiences of children cared for in church homes and missions varied considerably.
As individuals, there are memories which we can recall with some fondness. The friendships that bonded us as orphanage kids, the weekends at Riddell Beach and other happy occasions. But as individuals also, each of us could pick out at least half a dozen grievances with Nuns as our caretakers - the discipline, the notes made on our records in relation to our intelligence, the removal of personal possessions, the removal of birth names, the denial of access to family members, the chores, being locked up... (former resident quoted by Holy Child Orphanage, Broome, submission 520 on page 1).
At the age of 16, when most of us left the care of the Church, we were young girls; we were very vulnerable. We didn't have much skills in terms of preparation for life or life experiences. So consequently most of us had kids, went from one relationship to another, from one broken marriage to another. Most of us have ended up being drunks and alcoholics at early ages. But there's been nothing there to help us through, to unshackle that shame and blame. And what the Church has done, it just continuously reinforced to us all the negative things about us. And it makes us feel guilty. And it's done nothing to remove any of that guilt. And what I'm saying is that the apology isn't enough. There's got to be some sort of public statement to say to us, `You are not to blame for it. And we were wrong'.
Confidential evidence 548, Northern Territory: WA woman removed to a Catholic orphanage at 4 years in the 1950s.
I found the Methodist Mission [Croker Island] very helpful and myself, from my experience, I really can't condemn the United Church, or Methodist Mission. Because they've been excellent to us. There were one hundred children and they showed a little bit of affection to each of us, y'know. They didn't show any favouritism.
Confidential evidence 544, Northern Territory: woman removed to The Bungalow at 5 years in the 1930s; after seven years transferred to Croker Island Mission.
Many church organisations provided information, submissions and evidence to the Inquiry. Generally the churches expressed interest in assisting and supporting all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and doing what they can to remedy the hurt and damage suffered by those affected by forcible removal in particular. Many statements expressing understanding of that hurt and damage, acceptance of a share of responsibility and regret were made publicly to the Inquiry (Chapter 14). The Australian Catholic Social Welfare Commission expressed a view we believe to be widely shared.
... the Church has a moral responsibility to work towards healing the pain that separation has caused Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people (submission 479 page 36).
The Rev. Aubrey Quick, a former Methodist minister, also made this point.
... the fact that things happened with even the best of motives does not absolve us from our present responsibility to make what amends we can (submission 234 page 1).
The churches can provide practical assistance to those suffering the effects of forcible removals. The National Standing Committee of the Uniting Church in Australia recently passed a number of resolutions including,
that Standing Committee support and encourage the Northern Synod and the Northern Regional Committee of Congress to continue discussions with the former Croker Island residents and if appropriate to bring recommendations as to how the Uniting Church within the limits of its resources may best express its support for the Croker Islanders and their descendants (submission 457).
The Australian Catholic Social Welfare Commission recognised the need for consultation with Indigenous people in the design of any programs the churches might offer.
... in seeking to compensate Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people for the pain that its involvement in separation has caused, the Church must enter into honest and open dialogue with those people, in order that true reconciliation can occur (submission 479 page 36).
Of particular interest to Inquiry witnesses affected by forcible removal are,
provision of access to personal and family records and other information held in church archives,
the availability of counselling and related services provided by churches and non-government agencies, and
the return of mission and institution lands.
- Need for records
- Practical access problems
- Policy deficiencies
- Current access procedures
Churches, adoption agencies and other non-government agencies may hold critical information in their records to enable former residents or clients to establish their own identities and personal histories and the identities of family members.
The records of Koonibba Mission [SA] are mighty comprehensive so that I would be very surprised if anyone who wants to trace their family line, their ancestry, couldn't find the complete information that they desire in those church records (Rev. Clem Eckermann, Lutheran Church, evidence 262).
Private individuals may also hold relevant records. Examples include pastoral station managers who employed Indigenous workers and accommodated their families and anthropologists and former missionaries who undertook private genealogical research. Without this information people may be unable to prove their Aboriginality, locate family members or participate in family and community reunions. Indigenous people, especially children, were not in a position to maintain detailed genealogical, birth, marriage and death records themselves.
Government and non-government records are vital in tracing a person's origins - these records may be the only way of finding your identity (Link-Up (NSW) submission 186 page 155).
Privately-held record collections suffer from at least the same deficiencies as government departmental and archival collections. They are fragile, poorly indexed if indexed at all, often stored inappropriately and in some cases have been lost or destroyed accidentally or intentionally. To an even greater extent than government archives, church archives lack the resources to identify relevant records, preserve and index them and administer an access procedure. Rev. Paech of the Lutheran Church in South Australia advised that the Koonibba register for which Rev. Eckermann had such hopes cannot be located in church archives. The register was possibly given to the SA Government when the administration of Koonibba was transferred in 1963 (personal communication 10 December 1996).
Much of the material has not even been sorted through and catalogued yet. It's all going on at the time and the archivist himself had only been in his position about 3 months at the time - had taken over from the previous archivist who'd retired - and so he was not able to help me in trying to even find which were the most helpful places to even start to look. But the archives are open to anyone, but my own opinion is that I doubt whether anything of personal significance is likely to result - but they are there (Rev. John Vitale, Lutheran Church, evidence 431).
Similar difficulties were described by the Anglican Church of Australia, Diocese of Adelaide. Some of the records relating to the Point Pearce mission had been destroyed by fire. In other cases some names had been deleted and there were gaps in the records.
The Anglican Church holds some records, particularly concerning the Children's Homes, which may be helpful to Aboriginal people looking for personal information. They vary in content and nature, and they are still in the early stages of archival processing, and therefore need time to locate and review (evidence 259).
The general experience of searchers interested in accessing privately-held records has been a negative one.
I have found that it is quite difficult to access a number of files on behalf of clients. Church organisations and private organisations are unwilling to even understand the problems that this group encounter without archival information. The effect of not being able to access this information can have devastating consequences for people attempting to piece their family history together (Rosie Baird presentation submitted with Karu Aboriginal and Islander Child Care Agency submission 540 page 6).
It is quite difficult to get access to some mission files. Negotiations have not yet been productive. Access to information of this sort is not only a right by virtue of citizenship, and the treatment that Stolen Generations received, but also it should be recalled that the institutions were the Stolen Generations' de facto parents. Their responsibility to assist access goes beyond mere citizenship (Karu submission 540 page 31).
A range of difficulties has been encountered.
In some cases the problem is cooperation; some of these agencies refuse to give Link-Up any information about a child, and refuse access to their records. In other cases, the agency has closed and the records have been lost or destroyed, or the agency only keeps the records for a short time as a matter of policy ... Since the record trail of any given person may move through a number of different placements, both government and non-government, one missing or inaccessible file can cause serious problems (Link-Up (NSW) submission 186 pages 155 and 156).These difficulties are exacerbated in the case of records kept or taken by private individuals. Link-Up (NSW) reported, for example, its unsuccessful efforts to obtain records held by private landowners in whose pastoral property journals the births or deaths of Aboriginal residents were often recorded. There is a very significant risk that these records will be destroyed or will disintegrate for want of appropriate storage. The Inquiry was told that a former Darwin institution manager stores children's personal records in his garage, making them available to searchers at his own discretion. Some have been lost while the remainder are held in poor conditions in a humid tropical climate.
In July 1995 the Australian Cultural Ministers Council appointed an Archives Working Group. The Working Group's first project was to identify and survey the current state of access to records relating to Indigenous people. The report of that project was finalised late in 1996 and covered both government and non-government archives. However, the report is not comprehensive. Some record-holding agencies were undoubtedly not identified and some of those from whom information was requested did not respond.
A number of church agencies employ archivists or other professional staff to administer records and to assist searchers.
All of the Catholic organisations which responded to specific request from ACSWC [the Australian Catholic Social Welfare Commission] regarding access to records by individuals seeking personal information thought to be retained by an organisation have indicated that they are prepared either to give open access or restricted access to bona fide inquirers. Understandably, for reasons of confidentiality rather than an attempt to hinder the efforts of those who are seeking information, most organisations have indicated that access will be on a restricted basis (submission 479 page 16).
The Benedictine Community at New Norcia in WA advised the Inquiry of its commitment to the policy adopted by the Australian Society of Archivists (submission 486 page 10),
... to design and implement service environments, systems, routines, finding aids and promotional material which do not discomfort or embarrass Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander users, but which make appropriate access to records a culturally-sensitive, welcoming and relatively stress-free experience for Aboriginal Australians (ASA Bulletin June 1996 page 77).
The Inquiry was advised of a project being conducted jointly by the Australian Catholic Social Welfare Commission and the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Catholic Council to compile a listing of all relevant record repositories in the 28 dioceses and more than 200 religious orders and congregations (Joint Statement).
Where access can be provided, a charge is usually levied. However, while most churches expressed to the Inquiry their willingness to provide access, there is no legal requirement that they do so. Proposed extension of the Commonwealth's Privacy Act 1988 will extend the eleven information privacy principles to non-government organisations which collect and record personal information. A searcher will have a right of access to personal information held about him or her by a non-government organisation (Principle 6). The searcher's consent will be required in most circumstances before the organisation will be permitted to disclose that information to a third party (Principle 11).
The Inquiry was told that the churches are already aware of the implications for individual privacy of permitting free public access, and even access by close family members, to their archives.
... it is unlikely that personal records as such could be perused because this could involve breach of confidentiality with respect to others. We ask that all applications for information be made in writing, and we will endeavour to give every assistance (Anglican Church, Adelaide Diocese, evidence 259).
There is a difficulty about giving access to archival materials at New Norcia to everybody who asks for it. It is rarely possible to find genealogical information on one family without at the same time giving information about related families. We find that some Aboriginal (and other) people resent other enquirers discovering information about their own family members in this way.
Likewise there can be cases where records were written in a way that would now be found offensive to Aboriginal (and often equally to non-Aboriginal) people. Yet we feel history will be distorted and yet further misunderstood if such materials are bowdlerised, dispersed or destroyed. Other parties, including the New Norcia monks, are also mentioned in nearly all such records; they too should be recognised as having right of access to their contents.
Enquirers are given every assistance, while we try to ensure that appropriate privacy of information is respected. Our archival access policy is under constant review (submission 486 pages 9-10).
The National Standing Committee of the Uniting Church in Australia has urged synods and other church agencies,
... to ensure that all assistance is given freely to people who were taken from their families, and, subject to privacy considerations, to other family members, who wish to study the records of the Uniting Church relating to the taking of the children and their institutional care (submission 457).
The Catholic Social Welfare Commission developed a detailed proposal for the preservation of and provision of access to records held by the Catholic Church. The proposal contemplated a standardised database with a capacity to make referrals nationally and a procedure to resolve conflicts which may arise regarding access to records (Catholic Social Welfare Commission submission 479 pages 15-18). The Commission called on State and Federal governments to fund the project.
The Catholic family welfare agency Centacare similarly asserted that governments are responsible for funding support. It complained that the absence of government funding has hampered a project commenced in 1992 to collate and centralise personal information relating to Catholic Children's Home residents (Centacare Sydney submission 478 page 4).
The Aboriginal and Islander Commission of the National Council of Churches also recognised the need for an injection of funds without, however, asserting a government responsibility to provide those funds.
One suggestion we have ... is to raise funds for a qualified NCCA [National Council of Churches] research team to organize the numerous church and mission archives which exist, but very many of which currently are in a woeful state of disarray. The goal is to locate, document, codify and research these church and mission archives, and to produce very high-quality (well-researched) resources which would be made available to the public ... We feel that this would be the major contribution the ecumenical movement could make in redressing its involvement in this chapter of history, and in moving toward the process of healing and reconciliation between Australian Indigenous Peoples and the Christian community (letter to Sir Ronald Wilson dated 15 January 1996).
In 1993 the Aboriginal and Islander Commission of the National Council of Churches hosted the `Martung Upah Indigenous Conference' which called for the churches to open their archives, mission and other church records to Indigenous people.
The Victorian Stolen Generations group recently called for `the government to publish a full list of archival material ... not only the records held by government departments but material held by universities, private individuals and organisations that record the history of Aboriginal people in Victoria', `to collate and archive the information' and `to instigate a moratorium on destruction' (Resolution of November meeting). This resolution echoes that of the Stolen Generations National Workshop 1996.
The National Workshop determines that all records relating to Aboriginal people and their communities, including those that are kept by governments, churches and private agencies, are the property of the people and communities to which they related. Thus, no agency (government or non-government) currently holding records relating to Aboriginal people has the right to destroy, alter or deny access by the owner to these records. Further, as the subject Aboriginal people and their communities are the owners of these records all intellectual property rights in such records reside in those people and their communities (submission 754 page 23).
Because of the role played by churches and missions in the placement and care of Indigenous children and families generally, many records were created which may now be essential to enable family and/or community links to be re-established. Like government record agencies, the churches have reasons for retaining these records. Some lack the resources, however, to preserve them appropriately and administer access. Some churches have deposited their records in State Libraries or other repositories. For example the records of Sister Kate's Home in Perth are now in the Battye Library.
Recommendation 38a: That every church and other non-government agency which played a role in the placement and care of Indigenous children forcibly removed from their families, at the request of an Indigenous language, culture and history centre, transfer historical and cultural information it holds relating to the community or communities represented by the centre.
Recommendation 38b: That churches and other non-government agencies which played a role in the placement and care of Indigenous children forcibly removed from their families identify all records relating to Indigenous families and children and arrange for their preservation, indexing and access in secure storage facilities preferably, in consultation with relevant Indigenous communities and organisations, in the National Library, the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies or an appropriate State Library.
Recommendation 38c: That every church and non-government record agency which played a role in the placement and care of Indigenous children forcibly removed from their families provide detailed information about its records to the relevant Indigenous Family Information Service or Services.
We have proposed that the churches and other relevant non-government agencies should be represented on each State and Territory Records Taskforce. Private record agencies should implement the minimum access standards. The Catholic Social Welfare Commission, in a detailed submission relating to records, concluded that,
... the principles which should guide access arrangements to any records containing personal information relating to an individual who is seeking to establish or trace their personal and family identity are:
- as a general rule access to records should be permitted;
- every assistance be given to ensure that access is available;
- access be free of charge to bona fide inquirers;
- maintenance of confidentiality at all times; and,
- the provision of professional and culturally sensitive counselling to an inquirer prior to and during the access of personal files (submission 479 page 17).
Application of minimum standards and common guidelines
Recommendation 39: That church and other non-government record agencies implement the national minimum access standards (Recommendation 25) and apply the relevant State, Territory or Commonwealth common access guidelines (Recommendation 23).
The emotional and psychological effects of forcible removal are documented in Part 3 of this report.
Removal affects the individual, the family, the culture from which they were removed and the broader society. From Relationships Australia's experience these outcomes and consequences of forced removal of children are consistent with grief and loss on a large scale, which when unresolved, affect the quality of people's relationships (Relationships Australia submission 685 page 6).
Some church and other non-government agencies have turned their attention to survivors' needs for counselling and related support. The National Standing Committee of the Uniting Church in Australia has resolved to request,
... synods to invite organisations such as Burnside in New South Wales, Copelen Family Services in Victoria and Adelaide Central Mission in South Australia to seek discussions with the Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress with a view to entering into arrangements under which facilities, resources and expertise of the Uniting Church's family counselling services may be made available to the Aboriginal community for child care or adult counselling in an arrangement in which responsibility and authority would be negotiated (submission 457).
Most churches provide services for individuals and families experiencing financial, emotional or spiritual distress. The range of services is usually related to the size of the organisation and the resources available to the church. Few services are specifically provided for Indigenous people, although they are available to Indigenous people seeking to use them. In practice, utilisation by Indigenous people depends on whether the service is culturally sensitive and appropriate.
A number of churches identified services specifically directed towards the needs of Indigenous people and relevant to the survivors of forcible removal. The Catholic Church, for example, offers Centacare programs including the Aboriginal Family Worker in Brisbane, the Financial Counsellor in Wilcannia-Forbes, Family Care Teams and Family Support Programmes generally and a number of other Catholic marriage and family mediation services across a number of regions which may be relevant to those affected by forcible removal (Centacare Catholic Community Service evidence 478, Australian Catholic Social Welfare Commission submission 479).
The Uniting Church's Burnside agency in New South Wales also identifies family support services, including family counselling specifically related to child behaviour problems within families as being relevant, along with parenting education programs, one of which has been developed in consultation with a rural Aboriginal community to ensure cultural relevance (Uniting Church in Australia submission 457).
Relationships Australia described a collaborative arrangement in the Hunter Valley with the Awabakal Aboriginal community in which training is provided to Aboriginal women to enable them to lead groups and develop counselling skills. Importantly, the collaboration results from the initiative of the Awabakal community which also determines training arrangements.
Relationships Australia and the Anglican Diocese of Adelaide both expressed reservations about their capacity to provide the counselling and related services needed to address some of the effects of forcible removal. The Anglican Diocese of Adelaide identified the absence of Indigenous staff in its own Family Connections Programme as a barrier to effective service delivery.
[It] has been operating for approximately six years and has, until recently, worked with few Aboriginal families. Currently, out of a caseload of 32 families there are five Aboriginal families working with the Family Connections Programme and one Aboriginal family on the waiting list. All referrals come from Family and Community Services. For a programme with only non-Aboriginal workers this work presents a number of dilemmas and a great challenge and we question whether it is helpful to these families having non-Aboriginal workers working with them for reunification. It is an intensive programme and workers from the programme may spend up to 10 hours a week in a families home (Anglican Diocese of Adelaide evidence 259).
Relationships Australia, formerly the Marriage Guidance Council, identified `obvious problems of accessibility and cultural appropriateness' and a lack of resources (submission 685 page 4).
Non-government agencies with responsibility for counselling and support services for survivors of forcible removal must ensure the cultural suitability of their services, including through strategies to employ Indigenous staff, so that effective services are provided. Relationships Australia submitted that Indigenous organisations may be best placed to provide the services needed.
A further problem is that we already have waiting lists of 6-8 weeks in all areas. If we were to advertise specifically to provide a new counselling service for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people we could not guarantee how soon there is a risk of violence or severe conflict in the family or relationship.
Therefore while there is a need for access issues to be addressed the resource problem is the major hurdle and we believe that to address this, funding would need to be provided.
There is also the important consideration of ownership of services for Aboriginal people. We do not believe that funding organisations such as ourselves is necessarily the way to go ... funding to Aboriginal organisations to manage such programs in which expertise could be purchased from Relationships Australia and others, or joint projects may be a better solution (Relationships Australia submission 685 page 4).
The Inquiry endorses the view that services are best provided by Indigenous agencies. The existence of specialist agencies, however, does not relieve agencies funded and intended for all Australians from their obligation to ensure their services are accessible and appropriate for all, including Indigenous clients. This obligation is even more binding when there are no Indigenous agencies or when those which exist are poorly resourced and unable to deal with every need in the Indigenous community.
Recommendation 40a: That churches and other non-government welfare agencies that provide counselling and support services to those affected by forcible removal review those services, in consultation with Indigenous communities and organisations, to ensure they are culturally appropriate.
Recommendation 40b: That churches and other non-government agencies which played a role in the placement and care of Indigenous children forcibly removed from their families provide all possible support to Indigenous organisations delivering counselling and support services to those affected by forcible removal.
... it is a sad but truthful fact that the church and Christian people in the history of this Sate have contributed to the trauma, the decimation of the language and the culture among the Aboriginal community (Rev. Finlay submission 327 page 90).
The loss of connection with and entitlements to land through forcible removal are discussed in Part 3. Some churches appear to understand that forcible removal has caused these losses and the further losses that flow inevitably from dispossession.
It must be acknowledged that, no matter how well intentioned the motives of the church were in its involvement in separating children from their families, it's complicity has contributed to the dislocation of the people concerned and therefore to their loss of land, language and identity (Anglican Church of Australia, Diocese of Perth submission 410 page 2).
The staff members who served at Marribank [WA], the scatter homes and the hostels, with few exceptions, were not trained for cross-cultural work. Many acknowledge that they knew little of the cultures of the Aboriginal tribal groups. This had the inevitable effect of further isolating the children from their Aboriginal heritage. One of the social workers comments: Aboriginal values, traditions, and cultural mores were ignored in the care arrangements that were made for the children (Baptist Churches of WA and the Aboriginal and Islander Baptist Committee of WA submission 674 Page 15).
Some churches have expressed an intention or a willingness to return land acquired for the purpose of housing forcibly removed children or other land acquired for purposes relating to their missions to Aborigines.
Recently, during research through our records in preparing this submission, Baptist Churches of Western Australia discovered Crown Lease of 8094 square metres still inadvertently held by us, at Kojonup Location 4086, Reserve No. 16908, in Trust for the purpose of a Cemetery `Aboriginals'.
We are willing to hand this land over to the Aboriginal people, as appropriate. (Baptist Churches of Western Australia submission 674 page 24).
The National Standing Committee of the Uniting Church in Australia has recently apologised,
... to the people of Minjilang, traditional owners of Croker Island, that the church took over a large part of their ancestral lands without their permission, and used it for forty years to provide care for children separated from their parents (submission 457 page 2).
The process of returning mission land has not been straightforward. The Inquiry was told in Broome that the Catholic Church was willing to hand back land used for mission purposes and that negotiations were under way. The Catholic Church proposes to hand back most of the land, retaining some portions as freehold. It is negotiating for an ex gratia payment in the order of $500,000 from the WA Government in return for relinquishing the land it holds on trust. It is proposed to invest that amount for the benefit of the residents of the missions (Bishop Chris Saunders evidence 519).
The Kimberley Land Council called on churches to `resolve any outstanding land issues with relevant communities' (submission 345 page 72). The KLC noted that Indigenous people lost land entitlements by being removed from their traditional country to missions. The practice of gathering children together in missions on country belonging to others created problems communities must grapple with today.
Today around the Kimberley there are several large communities of people who have elsewhere been referred to as `the historical people'. These are people who live in ex-mission communities on land which is not their traditional country, but is only their home place. They are the people who were taken away, or the children and grandchildren of people who were taken away. The mention of native title on the country they call home has often caused them great concern. They are afraid that they will have to leave once the land is handed back to the Traditional Owners. They are afraid the Traditional Owners will use their new control over land to kick them off, or that it will no longer be appropriate for them to continue to live there. So far there have been two claims in the Kimberley where this has been a factor. The Traditional Owners and the KLC have developed an approach where community areas are not claimed, although the surrounding country is. This is to ensure that members of the community who are not Traditional Owners do not feel threatened or obliged to leave. Traditional Owners will seek to control their country, but will have to be able to accommodate the needs of the communities that live there and have lived there for a long time. Traditional Owners recognise that it is not the fault of those `newcomers' that they are there, and that for many it is their only home. Where the KLC does lodge a claim on behalf of Traditional Owners over an area where other groups have a strong historical connection, we are committed to helping to negotiate a solution over their respective land needs. People hold very strong historical connections to former mission or institution land and these connections must be acknowledged (submission 345 pages 21-22).
The return of land used by the churches would express their recognition that the policies and practices of forcible removal were wrong. It would indicate their refusal to profit from a practice most have publicly acknowledged was wrong.
Recommendation 41: That churches and other non-government agencies review their land holdings to identify land acquired or granted for the purpose of accommodating Indigenous children forcibly removed from their families and, in consultation with Indigenous people and their land councils, return that land.
Warning: The following link may contain images of deceased Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander persons.
Courtesy Bicentennial Copying Project, State Library of New South Wales.
Our home was out in the bush, many miles from Kempsey. It was an old wooden shack consisting of only two rooms. It may not sound like much but it was the only home I ever knew. We children were little free spirits, exploring the bush surrounding our home, building cubbie houses, and just being allowed to enjoy our childhood. Our big brothers were always our protectors, we could rely on them to look after us and not let us come to any harm.
Confidential submission 332, Queensland.