Given the ongoing and intergenerational effects of being taken away, is it useful to think of the Stolen Generations as something that happened in the past, or as a contemporary issue affecting Indigenous peoples? What implications are there for all Australians in recognizing the need for national healing? The Stolen Generation was a time of grief, sorrow and sadness for many indigenous people. To say that it is something of the past would be distorting the seriousness of the issue, the Stolen Generation was and always will be a contemporary issue affecting indigenous people. Although race relations in Australia have been signified for many decades there still remains a historic distinction between ‘black’ and ‘white’ people and this is why Australians are faced with the implications of recognizing the need for national healing.
The immediate impacts of the Stolen Generation left many children feeling incomplete, lost and alone. The Stolen Generation continues to impact upon contemporary Indigenous spiritualties as the removal of a complete generation of children from their families has had a negative effect on the ability of these children to maintain their cultural identities, spirituality and their own sense of belonging to the world.
The implications left for Australians in recognizing the need for national healing are extensive, Australians can be seen as the ones who need to continually fix the wrongs of the past, and although the nation strive towards coherence between Indigenous people and contemporary society it will never change what has already happened. The initial impacts of those victims of the stolen generation began with the direct disconnection from family members and the harsh reality that they were now separated from loved ones, which in some cases was forever.
This factor in particular is one of the leading reasons that indigenous people are affected by the Stolen Generation as a contemporary issue in today’s society. Family is what provides a sense of closure and connection in an individual’s life. To have been stripped of that at such a young age leads to many complications and developmental issues that still haunt many indigenous people today. Many indigenous people are now suffering and hurting because of what occurred, and what they were faced with. As evidenced in one of many testimonies from victims of the stolen generation Frank Byrne is just one of many who are hurting, as he says that, “It’s very important to tell people our stories because we are hurting. It hurts. We lost our family and we
didn’t bring that on. It was the Government. Why? We don’t know why.
We’re just as human as everybody and we’re hurting…” The contemporary issue being represented is evident that the Stolen Generation is not something that can ever be put in the past, Frank was born in 1937 and taken away a short time after, if he is still hurting almost 70 years later then that should be enough to prove that the issue of removing children from their families at such a young age is a very serious one.
Whilst indigenous people have suffered ongoing pain, there have been developments in addressing their desire for closure, and their need for an apology was finally addressed. However, the negative implications left for Australians in helping them heal can be seen as what really impacts upon the way in which Australians are able to help in the healing process. It can be seen as unfortunate that today’s societies are the ones who pay for the mistakes of the past and for some Australians it may be a burden thrust upon them that’s existence might not ever cease.
It is assumed by many that no matter how much is done, Australia will always pay for the occurrence of the Stolen Generation and in a way that can be deemed true. It is more than obvious that suffering did not start and finish for members of the indigenous communities, suffering started many years ago and will remain, the brutality and seriousness of the issue does not simply heal with time or become a memory it is immovable from the world, and most importantly from those who suffered. In saying this however, there are others willing to help in achieving a positive connection with the members of the indigenous community, in particular those affected by the Stolen Generation.
This can be seen through various orgainisation who thrive for a better society and aim at helping those in need of healing to heal and be given the closure they deserve. For example, ‘The healing foundation’ is a government run orgainisation with a main goal and belief that ‘We can close the Gap by supporting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to build stronger communities, heal the trauma, and preserve and celebrate our culture and our people’. Various healing programs are run through this orgainisation and they all aim to target different aspects that need to be addressed, eg; holding healing camps on country-
This could ultimately help restore the connection to land that was once lost when removed from it, being in a place where you feel most comfortable would in due course enable indigenous people to strengthen that connection to the land, and in affect from that help their pain. The pain of the past, and the impact it has on the present is left with individuals from the Stolen Generation. It is safe to say that up until this present day Indigenous people are frowned upon by many, and are discriminated based on their race and opinions on what kind of people they really are. This in turn leads to the exclusion of individuals from society, and then the feeling of being rejected and neglected. This feeling has then impacted many to resort to violence &crime, alcohol abuse, drug abuse and in extreme cases suicide.
However, whilst some resort to these negative responses, most are the victims of abuse and crime. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics the crime rate for indigenous people on average, are considerably higher crime victimisation rates. In 2008, around one-quarter (23%) of Indigenous people aged 15 years and over reported being a victim of physical or threatened violence in the last 12 months, and one in seven (15%) had experienced at least one episode of physical violence in the previous year (ABS 2010c).
In 2009 in the Northern Territory, police recorded 5,985 Indigenous people per 100,000 Indigenous populations as victims of assault in 2009 compared to 1,150 non-Indigenous people per 100,000 non-Indigenous populations. The figures speak for themselves, being a part of the Stolen Generation may not only be the reason that indigenous people are secluded and victimized, but it does account for the distinction between them and the rest of the community. Being victimized becomes a very serious contemporary issue as it now creates the start of an ongoing chapter, where Indigenous people are targeted based on their race and who they are believed to be. It creates a polluted society where negative connotations are what define people, when it should at no time come down to that.
Australians need to recognize the need for national healing, and address such issues like violence so that it sooner or later becomes non-existent. The implications for this that Australians are left with are to help those who are victims of abuse, and support the people of the Stolen Generation who need supporting. As outlined in the ‘Bringing them home report’ many homes that children were placed in were extremely cruel, and most suffered from sexual and physical abuse.
It was evident that most in power abused their positions and as a result the Indigenous people were the ones who underwent the constant exploitation. In recognizing the need for healing all Australians are faced with the realization that because of this most indigenous people are sensitive to change, do not adapt well with strangers and as a result are separated from society.
In helping break that barrier and minimize these effects it is important to enable space for change and recognition of the rights and needs of the indigenous communities, especially the ones directly impacted by the after math of the Stolen Generation. When they were taken away Indigenous people were not only stripped of their families, homes and belongings but they were stripped of their identity’s. Did not matter what their name was, who they were, or where they came from.
Losing your identity and being forced to change so rapidly and harshly carried so many negative consequences for those who fell victim to the change. It is because of this that today, in our society many people are still impacted and lost in finding out who they really are or where their family could be now. Being forced to assimilate into a ‘white’ Australian fell under the ‘White Australia Policy, 1901’ The policy broke important cultural, spiritual and family ties which crippled not only individuals, but whole families and even whole communities. This as a result outlines the need for society today to be understanding and acknowledge the sensitive situation that most people may still be in.
There is no greater struggle in life than finding out who you are and to have been broken from any connection which could ever lead you back home will most definitely leave Indigenous people broken for many generations to come. The impact this brings to Australian society is that the issue of social justice arises and again the division between indigenous people and Australians is made evident. The suffering of being separated from family is something that was stowed upon indigenous peoples by the white Australians at the time. The constant questioning of ‘why us?’ is probably such a question left un answered by many, this leads to the implications that some Australians may feel as though it is not their role, nor fault to be the ones to acknowledge and say sorry for what has happened in the past.
Although this may cause a stir for some, it is the current nation and generations to come job to ensure that the feeling of displacement and lost identities are retrieved. The separation from family not only meant a lost identity for most, but also a disconnection to their land which thus impacted their spirituality and involvement in practicing their beliefs. The issue of land rights, and the way in which indigenous people present themselves to this day is still an issue in society.
Indigenous people are prone to, and enjoy being outdoors to practice their faith, for some this may be seen as intimidating, wrong, or strange but in order for healing to be achieved the Australians of this contemporary society need to acknowledge these needs of practicing their faith, and enjoying their outdoor surroundings. Indigenous people all over the world are suffering with the emotional and physical trauma of being part of the Stolen Generation. It is not something that will fade away with time, nor will it ever be forgotten about, the Stolen Generation was a horrific time for everyone who was involved and it’s the job of Australia today and in the future to right the wrongs of the past and enable the healing process to take place effectively.
ABS (September 2013). Measures of Australian progress. Retrieved September, 2013, from http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/Lookup/by%20Subject/1370.0~2010~Chapter~Aboriginal%20and%20Torres%20Strait%20Islander%20peoples%20(184.108.40.206
Press, R. W. (Septemeber 2013). Stolen Generations Fact Sheet. Retrieved September, 2013, from http://reconciliaction.org.au/nsw/education-kit/stolen-generations/#impact
Australian Human Rights Commission (September,2013). Australian Human Rights . Retrieved September, 2013, from http://www.humanrights.gov.au/
Byrne, F. (September, 2013). Testimonies . Retrieved September, 2013, from http://stolengenerationstestimonies.com/index.php/testimonies/1020.htm
Australia, H. P. (September, 2013). Healing. Retrieved September, 2013, from http://healingfoundation.org.au/healing-programs/