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Pilger writes: "The tape is searing. There is the voice of an infant screaming as he is wrenched from his mother, who pleads, 'There is nothing wrong with my baby. Why are you doing this to us?'"

Most Aboriginal families live on the edge. Their life expectancy is as low as 37. (photo: David Gray/Reuters)
Most Aboriginal families live on the edge. Their life expectancy is as low as 37. (photo: David Gray/Reuters)


Another Stolen Generation: How Australia Still Wrecks Aboriginal Families

By John Pilger, Guardian UK

23 March 14

 

The mass removal of Indigenous children from their parents continues unabated – where is the outrage?

he tape is searing. There is the voice of an infant screaming as he is wrenched from his mother, who pleads, "There is nothing wrong with my baby. Why are you doing this to us? I would've been hung years ago, wouldn't I? Because [as an Aboriginal Australian] you're guilty before you're found innocent." The child's grandmother demands to know why "the stealing of our kids is happening all over again". A welfare official says, "I'm gunna take him, mate."

This happened to an Aboriginal family in outback New South Wales. It is happening across Australia in a scandalous and largely unrecognised abuse of human rights that evokes the infamous stolen generation of the last century. Up to the 1970s, thousands of mixed-race children were stolen from their mothers by welfare officials. The children were given to institutions as cheap or slave labour; many were abused.

Described by a chief protector of Aborigines as "breeding out the colour", the policy was known as assimilation. It was influenced by the same eugenics movement that inspired the Nazis. In 1997 a landmark report, Bringing Them Home, disclosed that as many 50,000 children and their mothers had endured "the humiliation, the degradation and sheer brutality of the act of forced separation ... the product of the deliberate, calculated policies of the state". The report called this genocide.

Assimilation remains Australian government policy in all but name. Euphemisms such as "reconciliation" and "Stronger Futures" cover similar social engineering and an enduring, insidious racism in the political elite, the bureaucracy and wider Australian society. When in 2008 prime minister Kevin Rudd apologised for the stolen generation, he added: "I want to be blunt about this. There will be no compensation." The Sydney Morning Herald congratulated Rudd on a "shrewd manoeuvre" that "cleared away a piece of political wreckage in a way that responds to some of its own supporters' emotional needs, yet changes nothing".

Today, the theft of Aboriginal children – including babies taken from the birth table – is now more widespread than at any time during the last century. As of June last year, almost 14,000 Aboriginal children had been "removed". This is five times the number when Bringing Them Home was written. More than a third of all removed children are Aboriginal – from 3% of the population. At the present rate, this mass removal of Aboriginal children will result in a stolen generation of more than 3,300 children in the Northern Territory alone.

Pat (not her real name) is the mother whose anguish was secretly recorded on a phone as four department of child services officials, and six police, descended on her home. On the tape an official claims they have come only for an "assessment". But two of the police officers, who knew Pat, told her they saw no risk to her child and warned her to "get out of here quick". Pat fled, cradling her infant, but the one-year-old was eventually seized without her knowing why. The next morning a police officer returned to apologise to her and said her baby should never have been taken away. Pat has no idea where her son is.

Once she was "invited" by officials to bring her children to "neutral" offices to discuss a "care plan". The doors were locked and officials seized the children, with one of the youngest dragging on a police officer's gun belt. Many Indigenous mothers are unaware of their legal rights. A secretive children's court has become notorious for rubber-stamping removals.

Most Aboriginal families live on the edge. Their life expectancy in towns a short flight from Sydney is as low as 37. Dickensian diseases are rife; Australia is the only developed country not to have eradicated trachoma, which blinds Aboriginal children.

Pat has both complied with and struggled bravely against a punitive bureaucracy that can remove children on hearsay. She has twice been acquitted of false charges, including "kidnapping" her own children. A psychologist has described her as a capable and good mother.

Josie Crawshaw, the former director of a respected families' support organisation in Darwin, told me: "In remote areas, officials will go in with a plane in the early hours and fly the child thousands of kilometres from their community. There'll be no explanation, no support, and the child may be gone forever."

In 2012 the co-ordinator general of remote services for the Northern Territory, Olga Havnen, was sacked when she revealed that almost A$80m (£44m) was spent on the surveillance and removal of Aboriginal children compared with only A$500,000 (£275,000) on supporting the same impoverished families. She told me: "The primary reasons for removing children are welfare issues directly related to poverty and inequality. The impact is just horrendous because if they are not reunited within six months, it's likely they won't see each other again. If South Africa was doing this, there'd be an international outcry."

She and others with long experience I have interviewed have echoed the Bringing them Home report, which described an official "attitude" in Australia that regarded all Aboriginal people as "morally deficient". A department of family and community services spokesman said that most removed Indigenous children in New South Wales were placed with Indigenous carers. According to Indigenous support networks, this is a smokescreen; it does not mean families, and it is control by divisiveness that is the bureaucracy's real achievement.

I met a group of Aboriginal grandmothers, all survivors of the first stolen generation, all now with stolen grandchildren. "We live in a state of fear, again," they said. David Shoebridge, a state Greens MP, told me: "The truth is, there is a market among whites for these kids, especially babies."

The New South Wales parliament is soon to debate legislation that introduces forced adoption and "guardianship". Children under two years old will be liable – without the mother's consent – if "removed" for more than six months. For many Aboriginal mothers like Pat, it can take six months merely to make contact with their children. "It's setting up Aboriginal families to fail," said Shoebridge.

I asked Josie Crawshaw why. "The wilful ignorance in Australia about its first people has now become the kind of intolerance that gets to the point where you can smash an entire group of humanity and there is no fuss."


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+14 # michelle 2014-03-23 14:44
If you haven't seen Rabbit Proof Fence, I recommend it. It is the story of three girls ripped from their families and their trek over 1500 miles to return home. The end of the film has an interview with Molly, now an adult. The film is based on the book Follow the Rabbit Proof Fence by Doris Garimara.
 
 
+8 # geraldom 2014-03-23 23:48
Quoting michelle:
If you haven't seen Rabbit Proof Fence, I recommend it. It is the story of three girls ripped from their families and their trek over 1500 miles to return home. The end of the film has an interview with Molly, now an adult. The film is based on the book Follow the Rabbit Proof Fence by Doris Garimara.


I watched it on one of the movie channels and I also recorded it. Only two out of the three children actually made it home. The third was recaptured because she didn't believe her older sister, one of the two that had made it back home, that the story being told them by a white Aussie that their mother was waiting for them in some town was a lie.

There was another movie made about a similar situation that took place in Canada. The film is entitled "Where the Spirit Lives" and I refer you to the following URL:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Where_the_Spirit_Lives

Wikipedia doesn't describe the full plot, but they do escape and reach home.
 
 
+3 # michelle 2014-03-24 12:14
Thanks, I'll look for it.
 
 
+3 # geraldom 2014-03-24 00:09
There is another interesting film that I watched many years ago about an Australian family in the outback whose very young daughter ran off into the follow the moon. It's entitled "One Night the Moon." I give you the following URL:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/One_Night_the_Moon

The father was a racist and refused to allow the Aboriginal tracker assigned to the police to help track down his daughter on his land. The police, without the benefit of the tracker, failed to find the young girl.

After the police gave up, the mother of the child went to this tracker to help find her daughter and he did so relatively quickly. Unfortunately, too much time had gone by and her daughter was found dead in the bush. If her husband had allowed this tracker to find his daughter at the very start, she would probably have been found alive.

This film just shows how a father's hate can even override his love for his daughter.

As far as the film, "Rabbit Proof Fence," is concerned, I found it abhorrent that an Aborigine man was helping the white Aussies track down these three little Aborigine girls.
 
 
+3 # geraldom 2014-03-24 00:12
The first sentence above should read as follows:

"There is another interesting film that I watched many years ago about an Australian family in the outback whose very young daughter ran off into the night to follow the moon."
 
 
+17 # slocan 2014-03-23 17:44
Why are white Aussies so tolerant of their governments actions over so many years. Do white Australians project there own feelings of shame and inferiority on the native peoples of Australia? It happens here in Canada, still. Indigenous peoples live by a different story of how humans might relate to the Earth. Well as the modern industrial civilization collapses piece by piece the native peoples will likely end up teaching us how to reconnect to the Earth.
 
 
+6 # RoseM 2014-03-24 06:56
This whole situation is shameful. Why interfere with a peaceful people just struggling to live in a hard environment. If you want to help, set up free vaccination clinics and health care and schools but do not take children from their parents.
 
 
+8 # Kootenay Coyote 2014-03-24 08:48
& why do other nations who boast of their own virtue tolerate this without complaint or sanction?
 
 
+3 # Kev C 2014-03-24 19:33
Why indeed. Its a silent consent by the so called civilised world. There is nothing civilised about the Western societies we live among when we willingly turn a blind eye to atrocities being committed every day by our so called civilised allies. Until we all shout out about this and put an end to it we will still be talking about this when the next generation is being 'Lost'.
 
 
+7 # Adoregon 2014-03-24 11:01
It appears there is no end to the inhumanity inflicted by western European peoples on indigenous peoples.
What is happening in Australia is no different than the suffering inflicted on Native American families by the U.S. government.
That this behavior continues in 2014 is seriously fucked up.
 
 
+5 # reiverpacific 2014-03-24 11:05
This is almost a carbon copy of what was wrought upon the American indigenous peoples by the BIA, "Black-robes" (Preachers and priests), "Resettlement and assimilation" acts by ignorant but self-declaredly well-meaning "Liberal" politicians and they are still the most impoverished, invisible peoples with the shortest-lived demographic in the US.
I've been to OZ a few times including a couple of trips into the massive bush "Outback" that comprises most of the country and loved it but hardly ever heard any references to the "Abbos" (Crocodile Dundee's side-hand tribute movie notwithstanding).
It also makes former P.M. Kevin Rudd's 2008 Parliamentary apology to these people ring a bit hollow.
Nature is still very much the master on that huge sub-continent and you'd think that people would embrace these people's closeness to the earth and it's currents to help them survive themselves.
Somehow, I feel that these and other indigenous races will survive our self-destructiv e, greed-based armageddon and take back stewardship of the Mother Planet.
 
 
+3 # elizabethblock 2014-03-24 18:29
If the Aussies had any sense, they'd learn from Canada. Native children some very young indeed - were seized and sent to residential schools where they were forbidden to speak their own language, often abused, and lost contact with their families. The idea was to take the Indian out of the Indians and make them "white." Didn't work. What happened was generations of people who didn't know how to be parents, because they hadn't been parented.
But no. The Australians, it seems, don't want to learn the easy way, through other people's mistakes. They will learn the hard way. Unfortunately the people it's hard on aren't the white rulers, it's the aborigines.
I predict that the next time they say "Sorry" -- and there will be a next time -- they WILL have to pay compensation.
 
 
+1 # reiverpacific 2014-03-25 10:32
Quoting elizabethblock:
If the Aussies had any sense, they'd learn from Canada. Native children some very young indeed - were seized and sent to residential schools where they were forbidden to speak their own language, often abused, and lost contact with their families. The idea was to take the Indian out of the Indians and make them "white." Didn't work. What happened was generations of people who didn't know how to be parents, because they hadn't been parented.
But no. The Australians, it seems, don't want to learn the easy way, through other people's mistakes. They will learn the hard way. Unfortunately the people it's hard on aren't the white rulers, it's the aborigines.
I predict that the next time they say "Sorry" -- and there will be a next time -- they WILL have to pay compensation.


Whaddya mean "Canada".
The US wrote the book on "Assimilation", de-nationalizat ion, non-recognition , near-genocide and deliberate demoralization of the indigenous peoples of this continent, who in several cases like the northern Blackfoot, straddled the US/Canadian border!
 

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