On February 13, 2008, then prime minister Kevin Rudd apologized to Australia’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people for the removal of children from their families, culture and country, and placement in government and church-run missions throughout the country.
In the Northern Territory, between 1911 and the 1960’s, thousands of “half-caste” children were removed under policies created by the Commonwealth Government. Family connections were severed, languages lost, physical, mental, and sometimes sexual abuse occurred. These children were made wards of the state until they were 18, then cast off, often without the education or social skills needed to build a quality life for themselves in the white man’s world, to which they were expected to assimilate.
The Aboriginal Ordinances of 1911 and 1918, and the subsequent Welfare Ordinance enacted in 1957, made the removals legal under Australian law, protecting the Commonwealth Government from any wrong doing in courts to date.
Some found their roots. Most never saw their families again. Land rights and royalties that would have been their birth rights have been lost. Many spent the majority of their adult lives straddling white Australia and aboriginal Australia, never being fully accepted by either. Funding has been provided for healing foundations and services to reconnect family members, but many feel that there should have been personal compensation for abuses endured and loss of culture and family.
Of the roughly 2500 children taken in the Northern Territory (a figure widely debated and difficult to prove exactly), less than 300 are still alive. These are some of their stories.