The Western Australian Stolen Generations Aboriginal Corporation (WASGAC) and Bringing Them Home WA (BTHWA) have today called on Pope Francis and the Catholic Church to issue a formal Apology to Stolen Generations Survivors in Australia in the light of his Apology today to First National People in Canada.
Aboriginal Co-Chair of BTHWA, Tony Hansen, himself a Stolen Generations Survivor, was pleased to hear that Pope Francis has made a formal apology to Survivors of the Residential Schools Program in Canada in relation to the years of physical and sexual abuse perpetrated by people associated with the Catholic Church.
“Stolen Generations Survivors in Australia have a strong connection with First Nations Peoples from Canada who suffered under the Residential Schools Program in that country, but we need the Catholic Church to acknowledge that similar abuse happened in this Country.”
Another concerning parallel with the Residential Schools in Canada is the growing evidence that there are also unmarked graves of Aboriginal babies at Catholic run institutions in Australia such as St Mary’s Mission and St Joseph’s Native School at New Norcia.
Mr Hansen said, “We simply don’t know how many of our people were buried at some of these Missions. It’s never been properly investigated.”
Jim Morrison, the Chair of WASGAC, which represents many hundreds of Stolen Generations Survivors, said “The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse demonstrated that the Churches were complicit in implementing policies associated with the removal of Aboriginal children from their families. Sadly, many of the Missions, which were run by Churches were the worst offenders and data from the Royal Commission highlighted the fact that over 60% of survivors who reported sexual abuse in institutions were from Catholic Church run institutions!” “We would welcome the opportunity to engage with the Catholic Church in Australia and the Vatican to facilitate a formal Apology to Survivors in this Country,” Mr Morrison concluded.
For further comment: Tony Hansen Mobile: 0417 610 412 or Jim Morrison Mobile: 0408 917 133
One of the recommendations of the Bringing Them Home Report into the Stolen Generations tabled 25 years ago was for a compensation scheme. While other states have schemes in place, sadly, WA does not. We want to change this before we lose any more of our old people. We have teamed up with Yokai Healing our Spirit and Kimberley Stolen Generation Aboriginal Corp to launch this petition today on Sorry Day.
The petition asks the Legislative Council to undertake an Inquiry into Compensation Schemes in other States and Territories in Australia for those who suffered because of forcible removal policies and make recommendations to the Government of Western Australia in relation to the establishment of a Compensation or Reparation Scheme in that regard in Western Australia.
Sorry Day 2022 marks two significant anniversaries and a call for long overdue compensation.
At this year’s Sorry Day Commemoration on 26th May, we will be marking the 50th anniversary of the repeal of Western Australia’s Native Welfare Act 1963 and 25 years since the tabling of the landmark report into the Stolen Generations, the Bringing Them Home Report. “It is important for people to understand that this discriminatory legislation was still in force when I was removed from my family and sent to Marribank Mission in 1970 at the age of 3! I was not allowed to leave the Mission until I turned 16 and it took me many years to reunite with some of my family. We are not talking about ancient history here!”, according to Bringing Them Home WA Co-Chair, Tony Hansen. “It is also important to understand that in Western Australia in particular, the impact of these policies and legislation such as the Native Welfare Act, was significant. Recent research by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare has shown that approximately 57% of the adult Aboriginal population in WA are either Stolen Generations survivors like me or are descendants!” Jim Morrison, the Chair of the Western Australian Stolen Generations Aboriginal Corporation, has highlighted the significant unfinished business from the Bringing Them Home Report. “Only a handful of the 54 recommendations in the Bringing Them Home Report have been properly implemented by Commonwealth or State Governments! The recommendations fall under 3 broad headings – Truth, Justice and Healing and they need to be considered as part of an integrated package and not cherry picked by Governments. We need to tell the truth about these policies of child removal and their impact on Aboriginal families and we need to provide proper justice and healing for Stolen Generations Survivors and their families!” “Whilst most States have implemented compensation schemes that are broadly consistent with Recommendations 3 and 4 in the Bringing Them Home Report, sadly this has not happened in Western Australia! Consequently, we are launching a Petition to the Legislative Council on the 25th Anniversary of the Bringing Them Home Report calling for an Inquiry into compensation schemes established in other States with a view to establishing a similar scheme in this State.” Mark Bin Bakar, the Chairperson of the Kimberley Stolen Generations Aboriginal Corporation, which will be celebrating its 21st Anniversary later this year concluded by saying, “We are looking to the broader community to support this online petition to demonstrate to the WA Government that there is strong support to put in place a proper compensation scheme for the Stolen Generations Survivors who suffered significant trauma as a result of their removal from their families and disconnection from their culture and country. He called on the Government to listen to the words of Midnight Oil – ‘the time has come to say fairs fair!”
Background: The Native Welfare Act 1963 was repealed on 9 June 1972. It was part of a series of WA Government race-based legislative acts commencing in 1887, under which thousands of Aboriginal children were removed from their families and placed in state institutions, missions, and foster homes. The Native Welfare Act 1963 replaced the Aborigines Act 1905, which had remained law from 1906 to 1964. Under the six decades of this latter act, the government’s Chief Protector of Aborigines — the most infamous and long-standing of who was A.O. Neville — and later Commissioner of Native Affairs, ruled almost every aspect of the lives of Aboriginal people in Western Australia. Indigenous people were subjected to forced cultural assimilation, continuing dispossession of Country, denial of basic civil rights, racial segregation, internment in oppressive and resource-deprived church missions and government settlements, and psychological and physical abuse. The First Nations peoples in Western Australia, as for those across the continent, were denied self-determination, cultural autonomy, political power, and treaty-negotiating authority. As the legal guardian of every Aboriginal child, the Chief Protector and Commissioner had the power to forcibly remove children, confine them in institutions, put them to menial work and deny them access to their family and kin. On top of the terrible grief and trauma of separation, many children suffered cruelty, sexual abuse and strict repression of their language, culture, and identity. While the Native Welfare Act 1963 ended the legal guardianship of Aboriginal children by the Commissioner of Native Welfare, the program of child removals and social assimilation continued under it, until it was repealed on 9 June 1972. From that point on, state practices in relation to Aboriginal children were assigned to mainstream welfare departments along with institutions into which children were placed. The separation of children from their families up to the present day, continues to be an issue of deep concern for Indigenous people, as does the enormous intergenerational trauma caused by the many decades of the destruction of families. The Bringing Them Home Report was tabled in the Federal Parliament on 26th May 1997 after an extensive Inquiry conducted by the late Sir Ronald Wilson and respected Aboriginal Lawyer, Mick Dodson. It is now 25 years since that report was provided to the Federal Government and sadly most of the 54 recommendations have not been implemented.
Wandering Girl by Glenyse Ward, Fawcett, 1992 God, the Devil and Me by Alf Taylor, Magabala Books, 2022 Broken Circles: Fragmenting Indigenous Families 1800-2000 by Anna Haebich, Fremantle Press, 2001 Spinning the Dream: Assimilation in Australia 1950-1970 by Anna Haebich, Fremantle Press, 2008
Gather with your friends, family, colleagues and school groups to help us commemorate the 25th Anniversary of the tabling of the Bringing Them Home Report in the Australian Federal Parliament in 1997. Streamed LIVE from the newly completed Stolen Generations Memorial within Wellington Square (Moort-ak-Waadiny) East Perth, this event will include a Welcome To Country, Smoking Ceremony, Speakers as well as musical performances. Due to COVID concerns this Sorry Day Commemoration is strictly invitation only, but you can still be a part of this important event on the Reconciliation Calendar by watching Live on YouTube. YouTube Link: https://youtu.be/zX-bVaXlkoY The link will take you straight to our live broadcast with links to other educational materials on our YouTube Channel Yokai Healing Our Spirit.
Call for members, Membership renewals and Joining the Bringing Them Home WA Board
Did you know that 55.6% of the Aboriginal population in Western Australia are either Stolen Generations Survivors or their descendants? That’s by far the highest in Australia. New research has confirmed that there is a “Double Gap” in relation to most of the health and social wellbeing indicators, when comparing Stolen Generations Survivors and their families with the rest of our Aboriginal community?
Bringing Them Home WA has been working to advocate on behalf of Stolen Generations Survivors and their families and to educate the broader community about these issues since the Bringing Them Home Report was tabled in 1997. We are an active, reconciliation-based organisation with Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Members and Board members, with strong partnerships with the Aboriginal community and into the Reconciliation Movement.
If you would like to become involved (or want to renew your annual membership) download a Membership Form and submit it through the email email@example.com or drop it into the Yokai office at 57 Murray St, Perth.
We are always looking for new Members to join our Board so if you are interested in getting involved, please let us know and we will invite you to join us to meet the rest of the Board and many other members.
Tuesday 26th May 2021 is the 24th Anniversary of the tabling of the Bringing Them Home Report in the Commonwealth Parliament. This landmark Report by the Australian Human Rights Commission was the culmination of the National Inquiry into the Separation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children from Their Families.
Bringing Them Home WA (BTH) and the WA Stolen Generations Aboriginal Corporation (WASGAC) would normally be jointly hosting a major commemorative event at Wellington Square, but due to ongoing COVID-19 restrictions, particularly for the schoolchildren who normally attend our event, we have again developed an online “event” in partnership with Curtin University. This “online event”, which features interviews with Stolen Generations Survivors and related documentaries from Curtin’s Noongar Dandjoo television program will be accessible from the morning of Sorry Day by clicking on the following link: https://youtu.be/c-QhJFjXYgA
However, WASGAC Managing Director, Jim Morrison, expressed concern on this anniversary that Governments have still not acknowledged the widespread impact of Stolen Generations policies on the Aboriginal community in Western Australian. “Soon to be released research has highlighted the astonishing statistic that approximately 50% of the Aboriginal population in Western Australia are either Stolen Generations Survivors or their descendants.” “Sadly, there is ongoing trauma associated with their removal from families and the intergenerational trauma that impacts on their children and grandchildren. These Stolen Generations Survivors are still looking for psychological support and long-term strategies for healing and Governments are not responding to this significant need”.
BTH Co-Chair, Tony Hansen, a Stolen Generations Survivor from Marribank Mission, added: “The other priority issue for Stolen Generations Survivors is the ongoing fight for justice! Survivors who suffered sexual abuse have options open to them to pursue compensation through the Redress Scheme established as a result of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse or through the Civil Courts, but this comes with the added burdens associated with re-traumatisation”. “It is time for Commonwealth and State Governments to consider the Bringing Them Home Report Recommendations 3 and 4 which proposed compensation or reparation for all Survivors to acknowledge the trauma associated with removal from their families and loss of culture. The NSW, Tasmanian, South Australian and Victorian Governments have all established compensation schemes and Survivors in WA, where the impact of removal policies was most profound, are still waiting!” “As we commemorate the 24th Anniversary of the Bringing Them Home Report, it is time for the WA Government to stand up and acknowledge the unfinished business associated with the Bringing Them Home Report, Mr Hansen concluded.
Further comment: Jim Morrison 0408 917 133 or Tony Hansen 0417 610 412
May 26, 2020 marks the 23rd anniversary of the handing down of the Bringing Them Home Report.
Make sure you watch our 3-part Sorry Day 2020 series featuring interviews and stories from Stolen Generations survivors from at least eight different mission sites in Western Australia.
We were looking forward to returning to Wellington Square this year, but due to COVID-19 restrictions we have made Sorry Day 2020 into an ONLINE event. We hope to reach an even wider audience online this year through sharing these recordings. These videos are also available for students to access and we encourage schools and education centres to engage with the content.
Please also see our media release for more information about the ongoing need for truth, justice and healing for Stolen Generations survivors and their families.
Please join us at 9.45am at the Wirin statue in the new Yagan Square in the heart of the city for a yarn and some performances to commemorate Sorry Day 2018.
Sorry Day is an important and special time. Stolen Generations survivors and their families are still looking for healing. To get healing we need truth and justice according to the recommendations of the Bringing Them Home Report. For that we need everyone’s support!
This year we will also be acknowledging the 100th anniversary of the Moore River Native Settlement/Mogumber Mission.
The Bringing Them Home Committee (WA), the major advocacy organization for the Stolen Generations in WA, has called for Commonwealth and State Governments to ensure that the plight of the Stolen Generations is not forgotten as the Report of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse is analysed and policy responses developed.
“The significant level of sexual abuse suffered by Stolen Generations children over many generations was confirmed when the Bringing Them Home Report was tabled over 20 years ago yet little has been done to implement the many recommendations in that landmark Report!” (Refer extract below), according to Tony Hansen, the Co-Chair of the Bringing Them Home Committee (WA).
“The recent Royal Commission Report indicated that approximately 15% of people who gave evidence to that Inquiry were of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander heritage and it is likely that the majority of those people were forcibly removed from their families as part of Government policies that became known as the Stolen Generations. This is five times the proportion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in the broader population!”
“The Bringing Them Home Report contained 54 recommendations that can be broadly summarised under the headings of Truth, Justice and Healing, which is ironically the name given to the Catholic Church body established to oversee the Church’s response to the work of the Royal Commission.”
“The Bringing Them Home Report recommendations have largely been ignored by Governments. There is little acknowledgement of the Truth about the forcible removal of Aboriginal children form their families; there has been little in the way of Justice apart from some outrageously low compensations payments under the Redress scheme in WA; and the Healing is only just beginning through the Bringing Them Home Committee’s innovative Yokai: Healing Our Spirit initiative.”
“We will be looking to Commonwealth and State Governments and the various Churches who failed our children to commit to the proposed Redress Scheme and to the implementation of the recommendations in the Royal Commission Report but also to review the recommendations in the Bringing Them Home Report which acknowledge the specific plight of Aboriginal children”
“If we want our families to heal and end the cycle of intergenerational trauma, the solutions are to be found in the recommendations of the Royal Commission Report and the Bringing Them Home Report – it is time for action!” Tony Hansen concluded.
For further comment: Tony Hansen on 0417 610 412
EXTRACT: Bringing Them Home Report (pp 193-195)
Chapter 11 The Effects
The effects of abuse and denigration
In institutions and in foster care and adoptive families, the forcibly removed children’s Aboriginality was typically either hidden and denied or denigrated. Their labour was often exploited. They were exposed to substandard living conditions and a poor and truncated education. They were vulnerable to brutality and abuse. Many experienced repeated sexual abuse.