Pre-University Paper, 2002, 28 Pages
3. Historical Background
3.1 James Cook and his way of treating the Native Australians
3.2 The Treatment of the Indigenous People of North America
4. The Treatment of the Aboriginals in the Australian society
4.2 General Consequences of the Racism
4.3 Reasons for the Children's Removal
4.4 Consequences of the Removal
4.5 Fate Report of a Stolen Child
5. National Reactions and Situations
5.1 The Redfern Statement
5.2 Official Government Statement
5.3 The Progress of the Reconciliation
5.4 The Bringing Them Home Report
5.5 The Future of the Aborigines under the John Howard Government
5.6 The Sorry Book
6. International Reactions and Conventions
6.1 The UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (9th of December 1948)
6.2 The Human Rights Committee
6.3 The Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination
6.4 Reactions of other Countries
6.4.1 The Federal Republic of Germany
6.4.2 The European Union
6.4.3 The United States of America
9.2.1 Sexual assaults reported by Inquiry witnesses
9.2.2 After-effects of forcible removal
9.3 Original Sources
9.3.1 Fate report of a Stolen Child
9.3.2 The 'Terms of Reference' of the 'Bringing them Home' report
9.3.3 The places visited by the 'Bringing them Home report' writers
9.3.4 The address of the Bundespresseamt
I spent 11 wonderful months as an exchange student in the country at which behaviour I will look very critical in the following research paper. First of all, I am going to describe my relationship with Australia so the reader will get a better understanding of my point of view.
One of the most shocking experiences I made by preparing this research paper was to realise that the racism in Australia is still alive. I had lived in this country for nearly a year and I did not realise at all, to what extent discrimination of Aboriginals goes.
During the preparation time of the Olympic Games in Sydney (New South Wales) there was a big discussion going on about the issue of The Stolen Generation. Stimulated by the arrival of the international media, politicians were fighting in public about paragraphs concerning the Stolen Generation issue on the back of the Aboriginal people. This discussion had special effects on me, as a foreign observer. At this point, I interpreted speeches of some supporters of civil rights as too fussy and simply disturbing. Now that I know about the background of this topic concerning some matters, I changed my mind completely.
After a stay of 11 months in Melbourne (Victoria), the time came for me to return to Germany. Many people were asking me whether I would be excited about going home. In these moments, I had to ask myself were my home was. At that time, the answer confused me because I felt my home was there. Certainly, I knew that Germany would turn again into my new/old home but at that very time, I felt quite strangely about this fact.
All over, all I really feel privileged that I had the great opportunity to look over the borders of my own environment and to see another country and its way. This also is the reason why I will not mince matters.
Australia has an unique status in the world. It is the oasis in the middle of several Asian third world countries. This status is hard to carry because on the one side, Australia has to respect the human rights and on the other side, it has to control the immigration. It is a very large country but there are only very few spots at which humans are able to live and to survive. This puts Australia into its special position.
A century ago, Australia started to form its own government. The Australian out of nine different states and territories became one nation. This nation had to learn to get on well with the Aborigines, which turned out to be a great problem for the whites. The young newly formed government decided to assimilate the mixed blooded children into their new and free nation, not knowing that this would be the beginning of the Stolen Generation and would divide the country into half for a long time.
Back to the present: Through two world wars, the worldwide economic crisis and the cold war, the young nation grew up and became an adult nation. Now Australia realises what happened to it but its nation is unsure about how to cope with the problem.
In 1642, the Dutch sailor Tasman discovered the Van-Diemens-Land, which today is called Tasmania.
On the morning of the 19thof April 1770, Zachariah Hicks, the first officer of the Royal Navy
Whitby Cat1 Endeavour, was the first European who saw the coast of Australia. The secret order James Cook got of the British admiralty was to discover the legendary Terra Australia Incognita. On the 28thof April, the Endeavour dropped their anchors at Botany Bay and for the first time in history, a European crew got in touch with Down Under. James Cook was a very careful man and so he planned to make great effort to get on well with the native Australians. However, when Isaac Smith, who was a cousin of Cook's wife, made the first step on the new land, he was welcomed by a group of warriors, who were throwing stones and Boomerangs at him. Cook did not know what it was so he called it a Throwing stick2.
In these few days two completely different cultures clashed together. Both sides did not hesitate to use weapons to defeat themselves and their traditions. Cook shot in the air for a few times to increase the radius of the Aborigines who were standing around him and his group. It seemed to work. From this time on, Cook could not get in touch with the Aborigines anymore. There were a few more contacts between the crew and the Aborigines at some other spots of the east coast. However, every effort to communicate with this newly discovered culture was dominated by misunderstandings.
Arriving in North America around 1400, the whites mainly planned to increase their wealth. This certainly led to a lot of conflicts with the actual indigenous population of America. An additional factor of aggression was the fact that the whites were convinced they were members of the most superior culture. Many conflicts were caused by this arrogance, starting with casual trading and ending with the distribution of land. In the 16th century, the church proclaimed that it was not even certain that Indians were human beings. In many cases, the whites accused Indian tribes to be barbarically. The only valid measures to compare the Indians with the Europeans were European values.
The main difference between the American indigenous politics and the Australian one was that in the U.S.A. there were treaties that arranged the living of both cultures. Often this did not lead to complete contentment on both sides. At least this gave the Indians a legal base for negotiations.
Many Aboriginal tribes lost their land when the Europeans started to colonize the country at the beginning of the 19thcentury. Especially during the time of the gold rush (1851-1852), the Whites took the valuable land of the tribes and ignored their land rights.
In 1937, the Commonwealth and all States passed the Policy of Assimilation, which guided the governments until the 1950s: The destiny of the natives of Aboriginal origin but not of the full blood lies in their ultimate absorption by the people of the Commonwealth, and [...] all effort should be directed to that end. Efforts by all state authorities should be directed towards the education of children of mixed blood at white standards, and their subsequent employment under the same conditions as whites with a view to taking their place in the white community.3 . In the 1960s, the policy was replaced by the Policy of Integration, which said Aboriginal people could continue their cultural beliefs and live alongside others of different cultures.4.
In 1990, the government started the reconciliation process and founded the Council for Aboriginal Reconciliation, which purpose it is to solve the Mandatory Sentencing problem and the Native Title problem.
In 1993, the National Court of Australia passed the Native Title Act in which they declared that the Aborigines had the right to negotiate.
In 1995 and 1996, the Northern Territory and Western Australia passed the Mandatory Sentencing, which is designed to arrest people for property crimes up to twelve months. Poor social groups mostly commit these crimes. This leads to the assumption that its real use is to criminalise the Aborigines. It is easier to discriminate an evil Aborigine than a good one. This behaviour of the government reminds one of general war tactic: Dehumanising the enemy for decreasing the inhibition threshold of the warriors.
Then in 1998, the newly elected government under John Howard, which still is in power nowadays, passed the Native Title Amendment Acts. These acts deprive the Aborigines of the right to negotiate and are the inversion of the National Title Acts of 1993. The UN is still very worried about these developments and asked Australia as the first democratic Western country to eliminate the racial discrimination: While the original 1993 Native Title Act was delicately balanced act between the rights of the indigenous and non-indigenous title holders, the amended act appears to create legal certainly for the Governments and third parties at the expense of indigenous title.5.
Does not this tactic of the Australian government show the real 'rights' of the Aborigines? In my opinion the Whites are the real criminals6. They illegally took the land of the Aborigines who afterwards realised it and claim their rights today. The government works very hard dehumanising the Aborigines, thereby making them less believable and trustable.
In 2001, the population of Australia consisted of approximately 19 million people.
Among them live about 427 000 Aborigines, which is 2 percent of all Australians.
Compared to the Whites, the social situation of the Aborigines is in a very bad state. 15.5 Aboriginal babies out of 1000 die at birth, which are 10 more than of the Whites. The life expectancy of the Aborigines is 20 years less than the White's one. Diabetes, tuberculosis and suicide are the reasons for the high death rate among the Aboriginal population. 21 percent of the males and 9 percent of the women abuse alcohol. In 2000, the general unemployment-rate was 7 percent, whereas 23 percent of the Aborigines were unemployed. One reason for the high unemployment rate is the bad education of the Aborigines: Only 32 percent of the Aboriginal children finish school. Most Aborigines are employed by the communities or the government within Community Development Employment Projects, CDEP. They earn about A$ 10,000 per year, which is A$ 2,500 under the official poverty line.
From the beginning of white settlement great parts of the Australian society were convinced that a black child would not be able to survive in the high developed white society at all. Only to the mixed blooded children were given the chance to assimilate into white society. Many Australians thought that the problem's solution lay in the removal of mixed blooded children from home. The first law which regularised this was the Policy of Assimilation.
As described above, the government wanted to give those mixed blooded children the chance to assimilate into the white and therefore European culture, religion and society. From their point of view, the problem was that the families of these children had a bad influence on them. Thus the decision was made to raise these children among Europeans. The aim was that the children would forget their origin. In their opinion, they imagined the best possible result could have been comparable to a low class white. This was a rather naive way of thinking. As far back as in the 1900s, Sigmund Freud discovered that the first months of life are the most important and most fixing ones for a child's physical and mental development.
All in all, one could ask itself why the Government did not make any effort to study the Aborigines and their way of life. For example, Aborigines live together in big families. In case of illness or death of the mother there are always the grandparents and other family members who will care for the child. The Whites did not know about these traditions or, which is more likely, they did not respect them.
Since before 1939 the Australian administrative bodies were given unrestricted power over all families with Aboriginal members7, the national Government passed the G eneral Child Welfare Act in that year. Although that law required the proof […] the children were neglected, uncontrollable or had to live in misery [, which includes the living by Aboriginal traditions] more and more children were removed from their [origin] families.8.
Analysing so called Welfare it does not seem very generously anymore. In theory at least the court process in the Child Welfare Act provided some safeguards against the unfounded separation of children from their families. But in reality, this was not a big help for neither child nor parents, because the courts often were located far from the Aboriginal communities. The parents were not able to seek legal assistance. This and the following example show inefficiency of the law: In that time we had nobody. No-one to talk for us or anything… We had to just go there… and… if we wanted to say something then, in court, it was too late. They said it was already finished. And then, bang, they're gone. That was it (quoted by Wootten 1983 on page 15).9
The following example underlines the arbitrariness of the General Child Welfare Act:
The interpretation of neglected and uncontrollable, which was mentioned in the Child Welfare Act, was done very widely. The word neglect included poverty and destitution and was a constant feature of most Aboriginal families. Children who refused to go to school were labelled uncontrollable. Often the reasons why the children ran away from home were that they were sexual abused or even pregnant. Nobody cared about their conspicuous behaviour and besides that -nobody would have believed them. In such cases the parents in which were forced to consent to the removal of their children the Board did not have to show that a child was neglected or uncontrollable10.
These assimilation practices, which were displayed on examples of the Northern Territory and the Australian Capital Territory, carried on until 1975.
Most of the following text is based on the Bringing them Home report11, which was published in 1997.
Every child of the Stolen Generation was in danger to turn into a victim of sexual abuse. Girls were in a higher danger to get raped then boys. 7.7% of the boys and 17.0% of the girls reported that they were victims of sexual abuse12. Both genders often were victims of these crimes. Normally the children did not report those cases. The reason can mainly be found in the dependence the children had of their homes. The foster families were their only constant base they had, their only home. This is the reason why they were anxious of telling somebody what was done to them. In their opinion, the sneaking would have led to the destruction of their home. Usually the perpetrator put its victim under a huge pressure. Since in nine out of ten cases of sexual abuse the perpetrator came out of the child's very close social setting, the child was in a dilemma: Every option of revealing itself to its environment would have meant a great suffer for the young unsupported victim.
Because the children often were taken away at a very low age, they did not have any contact to their parents who would have taught them essential abilities such as trusting the own feelings. The raped child often did not know how to interpret this incident. Sure, it did not feel good about being raped, but how could it have known that this was wrong. For example, a lot of young children do not feel happy about going to school or taking a shower but as they are taught these things are necessary. Unlike, nobody taught them that sexual abuses are wrong and they were not given the chance to ask. If nobody teaches you the norms of society, how can you rely on them? These children did not learn how valuable their feelings are. Often they took themselves as a matter of cause as human beings of a second class.
Since a major aim of the children's removal was the destruction of cultural links, the children were living between two different worlds. On the one side there was their origin they did not know anything about. On the other side there was the white society, which did not include them. In most cases these children went through an identity crisis. As an adult, they very quickly learned that they were not members of this society. There were still too many differences, starting with the colour of their skin and ending with the traumatic experiences during their childhood. This characterises the Aborigines until today: They don't know where they belong to. The first one does not accept them and the other one is nearly erased by the first one, trying to assimilate the Aborigines into the white man's society, which does not want them. [Do you get it? … I don't either.] A lot of Aboriginal tribes forgot their traditions and they are slowly recovering from the experiences with the European culture.
Therefore, you can say that the cultural base the Aborigines originally had was dumped by the Whites. If a White now criticises an Aborigine to be a drunken bum [and this is quite often true], this white person should ask itself whose fault it is that this colourful and peaceful race lost its identity and forgot the sense of life.
It was forbidden for us to talk in our own language […] we weren't allowed to talk about anything that belonged to our tribal life.13
John was removed from his home as a baby in 1940. Until he was 10, he lived at Bomaderry Children's Home, an ecclesiastical managed orphanage. He describes the place as a not really terrible home but very impersonal. The Sisters of the Bomaderry Children's Home were nice to the children, but they did not clear them up about their origin and background. All the children thought the Sisters were their parents. The only thing they told all these young Aborigines was that they were Whites. This was part of the assimilation. As a result of this, the children were not allowed to speak to coloured people.
1 A special kind of ship, which carried coal in the London dockland
2 Aughton, Peter. Dem Wind ausgeliefert.
3 New South Wales Department of Education. Social Justice & Human Rights Issue: A Global Perspective [online]
4 New South Wales Department of Education. Social Justice & Human Rights Issue: A Global Perspective [online].
5 Hett, Julia. Rassismus in Australien - GfbV-Stellungnahme zur Weltkonferenz gegen Rassismus [online].
6 Please refer to the Redfern Statement (5.1)
9 Commonwealth of Australia. Bringing Them Home Report. Book 1, Page 34
10 Commonwealth of Australia. Bringing Them Home Report. Book 1, Page 34
11 For more information about this report please refer to National Reactions and Situations (5.4) for further details
12 Please refer to the Appendix (9.2.1) for further details
13 Commonwealth of Australia. Bringing Them Home Report. Book 1, Page 152
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