The song ‘Took the Children Away’ by Archie Roach conveys the thoughts and feelings of many Aboriginal children that were taken and became the Stolen Generation. Throughout the song Roach talks repeatedly about the sense of loss and trauma suffered through the immense hardships of being taken from familiar surroundings and placed into a foreign setting. Although the song does not provide grim details of the incredible embarrassment of slave labour, Roach strongly focuses on the heartless taking of the children into a surrounding, where they could not ask themselves the basic belonging questions such as, who am I?, What am I worth? And what is my purpose? According to this song the Stolen Generation were left to ponder their identity especially with the words, “As we grew up we felt alone cause we were acting white yet feeling black”. I feel Roach particularly wanted us to feel sympathy for the Stolen Generation in this song because he focuses on himself as well as the Stolen Generation, making the song become personal as he details his own pain.
Also, during the second verse Roach sings “You took the children away, the children away breaking their mother hearts”. This emphasizes that not only children were affected, but families and especially mothers too. For me this conveys his message of the inhumane treatment of the Stolen Generation even more powerful, because he doesn’t focus on one particular group of the Stolen Generation, but on all aspects of the family and how it is affected. “The children came back, back to their mother, back to their father…back to their people.” The song ‘Took the Children Away’ is a powerful song, because it gives an accurate as well as a personal view to the listener, about the hardships and the sense of alienation felt by the Stolen Generation as they could not belong to any race, aboriginal or European.
The play, “Stolen” by Jane Harrison, also focuses on the trauma and psychological abuse suffered by the Stolen Generation. However instead of listening to a song like ‘Took the Children Away’, Stolen immerses the audience with various sounds, smells and sights to portray the incredible friction and alienation felt by many individuals of he Stolen Generation because of the way that they were personally humiliated, physically, mentally and emotionally. During the play Harrison reveals the damaging treatment that was inflicted on the Aboriginal children, in grim detail, to not only emphasize their loss of identity but their worthlessness as individuals. For example, the character Jimmy, after hearing that his mother has died, feels so worthless that he hangs himself in the jail cell of the local police station.
For me this made think twice before condemning an Aboriginal because of what I see on T.V, because the many images that are portrayed on the television depict Aboriginals as dole bludgers and losers. However, after reading this play and seeing the horrific and damaging treatment suffered by those five individuals it made me realise that the stereotypes that placed on them on television are wrong. The play immersed me in the pain and suffering that each one of the ‘Stolen’ children must have felt, being stripped from their parents and dumped in an unfamiliar environment to fend for themselves without the guidance and security of their family. For any individual the thought of being stripped from their loved ones and from the caring individuals in their community would be a nightmare. Yet it has already happened to the various individuals belonging to the Stolen Generation.
During the play Stolen, one particular character, Anne, is taken to a nice white home where the parents take good care of her and she doesn’t receive any sexual or mental abuse as other Stolen victims have had in the play. However, in this seemingly ‘perfect’ circumstance, Anne is still left pondering what her identity is because of her different skin colour. This makes her life more traumatic as she comes to grips with the reality that she is an Aboriginal, the race that was despised.
Also, during the play other characters experience this kind of treatment, showing not only that one person can be abused in this way. In the play we experience horrific and almost disturbing examples of the degrading of the Aboriginals. This brought into perspective the view considered by many people that this ‘Stolen Generation’ had no sense of belonging or identity because as a race of people they were not being valued as a human, being only for an object for which Europeans can use for slaves.
The episode ‘The Afghan Experience’ from Tales from a Suitcase is a documentary about two refugees trying to make a life for themselves in Australia. As Australians we may think that Shafiq Monis and Khadem Nori are a burden to our country and society, bringing with them only crime and becoming ‘dole bludgers’. However, the episode challenges this stereotype by showing images of Khadem and Shafiq surviving on a meagre salary, despite the psychological abuse suffered in Australia and being constantly viewed as criminals. Before I saw this documentary I thought some refugees abused their rights, especially the rape in Sydney by a group of Pakistanis earlier this year.
However, this documentary shows Khadem and Shafiq working hard for their adopted country and even though Khadem was not as emotionally and mentally damaged as Shafiq, the documentary illustrated his will to go on and achieve great things for his new adopted country. Unlike many of the other characters studied in the other texts, Shafiq and Khadem have come from a country where they could answer the three questions of belonging and have not been as damaged as the tragic cases of the five children in Stolen. However, despite being abused and humiliated to the point of despair, these two men have pressed on and showed me in particular that refugees can be an asset instead of a burden to our society.
To conclude, these three texts illustrate the extreme pain and trauma suffered by people in the Stolen Generation, as well as refugees marginalised by society who have tried to get a sense of belonging. All features in the play and texts work powerfully together to reinforce the psychological suffering that the children of the stolen generation went through as a result of the forcible removal from their family, as well as the alienation that Shafiq and Khadem endured in their society. The song ‘Took the Children Away’ is a dramatic song that portrays the instability and uncertainty that the children of the Stolen Generation face continually during their lives as well as the continual torment that still haunts them during their adult lives as a result of being marginalised in their own country.
The play Stolen uses many of the audience’s senses with the use of a cold, dark and regimented settings throughout the play to emphasize the terrible conditions that the children lived in, as well as reinforcing the terrible sense of loss of contact with their own race and civilisation. Also, the various scenes in the documentary ‘The Afghan Experience’ showed me the alienation felt by most refugees in Australia as they try to make a new life after fleeing from persecution in their own land. Overall, these texts accurately prove that these people were discriminated against and, without family, or other support, they do not feel valued or able to contribute meaningfully – which is an essential aspect in being able to belong.
Courtney from Study Moose
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