From the early 1900s to the 1970s, ‘white Australia’ assimilation policies were founded on an assumption that Indigenous people were inferior, and that they should be allowed to 'die out' through 'natural' elimination processes or at a minimum be assimilated into the white community by abandoning their heritage (Australians Together, 2014). It was believed that Indigenous children were disadvantaged by staying in their own communities and that they would receive a better education and a more 'civilised' upbringing if they were adopted into white families or placed into government care institutions (National Sorry Day Committee, 1998). During this period, Australian Federal, State and Territory government agencies, church missions and welfare bodies forcibly removed Indigenous children from their families and their traditional countries. Today, these children are known as ‘The Stolen Generations’ (National Sorry Day Committee, 1998; Healey, 2009).
Those children taken from their families and homelands were either placed in institutions or adopted. They were given a lower standard of education compared to that available to non-Indigenous children, taught to reject their Indigenous heritage, forbidden to speak their traditional languages; and had their names changed. Some who were fortunate enough to have been placed with caring foster parents have flourished. But, those children who were placed in unsatisfactory conditions, either with foster parents or in institutions, have struggled in their adult lives to overcome their experiences of trauma, loss, isolation and abuse (National Sorry Day Committee website, 1998).
Many people from the Stolen Generations have written accounts in a variety of literary forms of their experiences of survival and the impact such policies had and still have on Aboriginal people. Writing has been a means of healing the scars of removal (Heiss 2015). This BlackWords trail presents autobiographies, biographies, novels, children's stories, anthologies, poems and songs, oral histories, plays, and films written by many Stolen Generations survivors and/or by their family members. They depict the emotional, psychological and physical traumas of their experiences, and the disruption of their oral and cultural knowledge.
Key reading. Our Truths: Aboriginal Writers and the Stolen Generations by Anita Heiss.