20th December 2017
STOLEN GENERATIONS ABUSE SHOULD NOT BE FORGOTTEN IN ROYAL COMMISSION WRAP UP
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.
The social environment for all Indigenous Australians and the physical environment for many remain unacceptable. It is pervaded by racial intolerance and a failure to deliver adequate or appropriate basic services from housing and infrastructure to education and hospital care. Ill-health, poverty and unemployment are worse than third world levels. The 1991 NSW Aboriginal Mental Health Report (Swan and Fagan 1991) identified the factors increasing the vulnerability of the Aboriginal community to mental ill-health.
- [I]nstitutional and public racism and discrimination
- the continuing lack of opportunities in education and employment
- poverty and its consequences including stress and environments of normative heavy drinking
- inter-cultural differences in norms and expectations
- problems associated with long family separations and the issues associated with family reunion
- poor physical environments
- high levels of chronic illness and high rates of premature death (Swan and Fagan 1991 page 12).
This makes it almost impossible to pinpoint family separations as the sole cause of some of the emotional issues by which Indigenous people are now troubled (Professor Ernest Hunter evidence 61, Michael Constable evidence 263). However, childhood removal is a very significant cause both in its distinctive horror and in its capacity to break down resilience and render its victims perpetually vulnerable. Evidence to the Inquiry establishes clearly that the childhood experience of forcible removal and institutionalisation or multiple fostering makes those people much more likely to suffer emotional distress than others in the Indigenous community.
The psychiatric report concerning one witness to the Inquiry illustrates the persistence of vulnerability.
She told me of her mother’s death very shortly after she was born, and how when her father came to collect her from the hospital a few days later, she had already been removed as per the Indigenous Family Separation Policy. She was brought up in Colebrook Children’s Home away from her father and siblings. She remembers him coming to visit her on occasions and being devastated when he had to leave. She also remembers being sexually abused by the wife of the Superintendent at Colebrook, on several occasions, giving rise to a distrust of so-called caregivers, especially females … While she was still at school, she worked as a housekeeper for a local Minister and alleges that during this time, he regularly and deliberately exposed himself to her. Not having anyone to turn to, this was a confusing and frightening experience. Following leaving school, she was placed in domestic service with a lay minister also associated with the Children’s Home. This man raped her but she did not feel able to tell anyone as she felt profoundly ashamed and frightened. She was fifteen years old at the time. After this she was placed at Resthaven Nursing Home, which she believes was a strategy to get rid of her.
Ms S developed problems with depression and alcohol abuse following the death of her father in 1971. Her difficulties were also compounded by her unhappy marital situation, which was characterised by her alcoholic husband’s physical and sexual assault of her on a regular basis. [Diagnosed with manic-depressive disorder 1979. Hospitalised for the first time 1985.]
Unfortunately, the effects of ongoing alcohol and substance abuse contributed to frequent short-lived depressive episodes with suicidal ideation. Her substance abuse was the result of the difficulty she experienced coming to terms with the diagnosis of manic-depressive disorder, her significant family problems and the effects of a childhood where she was dislocated from her family of origin, thus leaving her vulnerable to the events which followed (document provided with confidential evidence 248, South Australia).
Many children experienced brutality and abuse in children’s homes and foster placements. In the WA Aboriginal Legal Service sample of 483 people who had been forcibly removed, almost two-thirds (62.1%) reported having been physically abused (submission 127 page 50). Children were more likely to have been physically abused on missions (62.8% of those placed on missions) than in foster care (33.8%) or government institutions (30.7%) (submission 127 page 53).
Witnesses to the Inquiry were not specifically asked whether they had experienced physical abuse. Nevertheless, 28% reported that they had suffered physical brutality much more severe, in the Inquiry’s estimation, than the typically severe punishments of the day.
Stories of sexual exploitation and abuse were common in evidence to the Inquiry. Nationally at least one in every six (17.5%) witnesses to the Inquiry reported such victimisation. A similar proportion (13.3%) reported sexual abuse to the WA Aboriginal Legal Service: 14.5% of those fostered and 10.9% of those placed on missions (submission 127 pages 51-53).
These vulnerable children had no-one to turn to for protection or comfort. They were rarely believed if they disclosed the abuse.
There are many well recognised psychological impacts of childhood sexual abuse (Finkelhor and Brown 1986). They include confusion about sexual identity and sexual norms, confusion of sex with love and aversion to sex or intimacy. When the child is blamed or is not believed, others can be added including guilt, shame, lowered self-esteem and a sense of being different from others. Wolfe (1990) concluded that the impacts amount to a variant of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. They reported effects including sleep disturbance, irritability and concentration difficulties (associated with hyper arousal), fears, anxiety, depression and guilt (page 216). Repeated victimisation compounds these effects.
People subjected to prolonged, repeated trauma develop an insidious progressive form of post-traumatic stress disorder that invades and erodes the personality. While the victim of a single acute trauma may feel after the event that she is `not herself,’ the victim of chronic trauma may feel herself to be changed irrevocably, or she may lose the sense that she has any self at all (Hermann 1992 page 86).
Post-trauma effects can be mitigated for children with a strong self-concept and strong social supports. Few of the witnesses to the Inquiry who reported sexual abuse in childhood were so fortunate. The common psychological impacts have often manifested in isolation, drug or alcohol abuse, criminal involvement, self-mutilation and/or suicide.
There is no doubt that children who have been traumatised become a lot more anxious and fearful of the world and one of the impacts is that they don’t explore the world as much. Secondly, a certain amount of abuse over time certainly causes a phenomenon of what we call emotional numbing where, because of the lack of trust in the outside world, children learn to blunt their emotions and in that way restrict their spontaneity and responsiveness. That can become an ingrained pattern that becomes lifelong really and certainly when they then become parents it becomes far more difficult for them to be spontaneous and open and trusting and loving in terms of their own emotional availability and responsiveness to their children (Dr Nick Kowalenko evidence 740).
Oliver (1993, reported by Raphael et al 1996 on page 13) `found that approximately one-third of child victims of abuse grow up to have significant difficulties parenting, or become abusive of their own children. One-third do not have these outcomes but the other third remain vulnerable, and, in the face of social stress there was an increased likelihood of them becoming abusive’.
MEDIA RELEASE – 16th May 2017
Major Perth Concert to Commemorate Twentieth Anniversary of Sorry Day
The Bringing Them Home Committee (WA) and Yokai: Healing Our Spirit have organised a major Concert to commemorate the Twentieth Anniversary of Sorry Day at the Astor Theatre at 7.30pm on Friday 26th May 2017. Sorry Day is an event which commemorates the anniversary of the handing down of the Bringing Them Home Report in the Commonwealth Parliament on 26th May 1997.
“Given the significance of the 20th Anniversary we have attracted a very special lineup with Archie Roach as the headline act, with support from local Aboriginal performers Gina Williams, Della-Rae Morrison, Candice Lorrae, Beni Bjah and the Madjitil Moorna Choir”, according to Jim Morrison, the Co-Convenor of the Bringing Them Home Committee (WA).
“Archie Roach is a multi-award winning Aboriginal singer/songwriter and Stolen Generations man who is best known for his advocacy for the Stolen Generations and for his song “Took the Children Away”, which has become the unofficial anthem for the Stolen Generations. We are therefore honoured and delighted that he has agreed to travel to Perth to join us.”
“Gina Williams, Della-Rae Morrison, Candice Lorrae, Beni Bjah are also award winning singers and songwriters so this is going to be a very special night showcasing some of the best Aboriginal performers in this country. We are also delighted that production for the night is being coordinated by well-known Noongar performer and producer Phil Walley-Stack!”
“This is a significant anniversary for the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community. This landmark report into the Stolen Generations highlighted the past practice of removing Aboriginal children from their families and the ongoing impact of those policies. Proceeds from the Concert will support the Yokai: Healing Our Spirit initiative, which provides cultural healing for the Stolen Generations and their families”
“Most of the performers at this Twentieth Anniversary Concert have family connections to the Stolen Generations and they will be joined by Stolen Generations survivors and their families and the reconciliation community to acknowledge this anniversary. Please come along and join us for what promises to be a memorable night!” Jim Morrison concluded.
For further comment: Jim Morrison on 0408 917 133
If you wish to speak to Archie Roach, please contact his Manager, Jill Shelton on 0414 556 728
MEDIA RELEASE – 14th February 2017
Close the Gap Solutions in Bringing Them Home Report
The Bringing Them Home Committee (WA) has reiterated its call for Commonwealth and State Governments to implement the recommendations of the Bringing Them Home Report if we are to see an improvement in the Closing the Gap Indicators.
“Yet again, we have seen the release of a Close the Gap Report which indicates that we are not seeing an improvement in indicators for Aboriginal, health, education and employment”, according to Jim Morrison, the Co-Convenor of the Bringing Them Home Committee (WA).
“There were 54 recommendations in the Bringing Them Home Report when it was tabled in the Commonwealth Parliament nearly 20 years ago, and sadly very few of them have been implemented in that time.”
“The ongoing intergenerational trauma as a consequence of the practice of removing Aboriginal children from their families impacts on a vast majority of the Aboriginal community. Until this is acknowledged and programs put in place to tell the truth, provide justice and reparation and heal those impacted, the Close the Gap Report will continue to record negative trends.”
“It is heartening to see the Leader of the Opposition, Mr Shorten, acknowledging that ‘…it’s at the heart of reconciliation, telling the truth, saying sorry, and making good.’ Perhaps he might like to kick off that debate with a review of the recommendations in the Bringing Them Home Report!”
“We also wish to acknowledge the concerns raised by former Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, in a speech at the ANU last night where he expressed the valid concern that we are seeing another Stolen Generation being formed. As he rightly said, ‘…we do not want another generation of young Aboriginal children unnecessarily separated from their culture. We do not want to see the emergence of a second Stolen Generation, not by design, but by default.”
“Sadly, the Bringing Them Home Committee is increasingly being asked to assist in cases where young Aboriginal children are being removed from their families and due to the lack of funding for Aboriginal community controlled organisations and programs, they are increasingly being placed in the care of non-Aboriginal organisations or families.”
“I can only hope that the disappointing Close the Gap report today might lead to some action. As Professor Fiona Stanley said at the launch of the Close the Gap campaign at Parliament House in Perth many years ago, we don’t need any new inquiries or reports. The Bringing Them Home Report and many other reports over many years have provided a way forward – we just need to implement the recommendations!” Jim Morrison concluded
Further comment: Jim Morrison ph: 0408 917 133
MEDIA RELEASE – 7 February 2017
ROYAL COMMISSION REVELATIONS MAKE TOUGH READING FOR STOLEN GENERATIONS
The recent revelations about the appallingly high level of sexual abuse by members of the Catholic Church makes tough reading for the Stolen Generations survivors as they continue with their struggle to get action from Governments on the 54 recommendations in the Bringing Them Home Report that was produced 20 years ago.
“Whilst the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse has been welcomed by many in the Aboriginal Community, for others there is a great sense of frustration and anger that many of the issues being examined are similar to those raised during the hearings that were undertaken by the Human Rights Commission Inquiry into the Removal of Aboriginal Children”, according to Jim Morrison, Co-Convenor of the Bringing Them Home Committee (WA).
“The Report of that Inquiry, which became known as the Bringing Them Home Report, was tabled in the Commonwealth Parliament on the 26th May 1997 and so this year we will be commemorating the twentieth anniversary of that significant report.”
“The Bringing Them Home Report included reference to the high level of sexual abuse in institutional care, including the staggering fact that “…stories of sexual exploitation and abuse were common in evidence to the Inquiry…and that at least one in every six (17.5%) of witnesses to the Inquiry reported such victimisation”(1).”
“Sadly, only a handful of the 54 recommendations contained in that report have been implemented by Commonwealth or State Governments over the past twenty years. The ongoing pain and trauma suffered by those abused children, and subsequently by their families as a result of intergenerational trauma, has not been acknowledged and reparation and culturally appropriate healing has not been made available to those people.”
“There will be significant events around Australia on 26th May 2017 to commemorate the Twentieth Anniversary of the tabling of the Bringing Them Home Report. In Perth, we will be calling for action from Commonwealth and State Governments to implement the remaining recommendations and hope that the timing of these recent revelation in the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse will prompt a more sympathetic response!’ Mr Morrison concluded.
For further comment: Jim Morrison Mobile: 0408 917 133
(1) Bringing Them Home Report (1997) page 194
MEDIA RELEASE – 18th January 2017
We need to tell the truth on Australia Day!
The Bringing Them Home Committee (WA) has called for all Australians to learn the truth about what has happened to the First People of this country since colonisation as we reflect on what it is to be Australian on Australia Day.
“As the representative body for Stolen Generations survivors and their families in WA, we ask in particular for a focus on the ongoing trauma being suffered by the Aboriginal community as a result of the past policies of removing Aboriginal children form their families”, according to BTHWA Co-Convenor, Jim Morrison.
“When Aboriginal leaders such as Robert Isaacs challenge Aboriginal people to “get past the hurts of the past”, he ignores the reality that there is still a massive gap in health, education and wellbeing measures between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people in this country!”
“This “gap” is highlighted by the appointment today of Noongar man, Ken Wyatt, as Minister for Indigenous Health. This appointment is a worthy one and we should congratulate Mr Wyatt on his achievement but we would not have the need for a Minister for Indigenous Health if there was not a significant shortfall in Aboriginal health outcomes compared to the rest of the population.”
“Recent research has highlighted the sad reality that these inequities in health and wellbeing outcomes are even more significant for the Stolen Generations and their families. Whilst Mr Rudd’s Apology was symbolically important it will never lead to significant changes in outcomes until the rest of the Australian community understands the truth about what happened and supports Stolen Generations survivors and their families to heal.”
“Perhaps when that is achieved, we may be able to “get past the hurts of the past” and take up Mr Isaacs challenge but there is much to be done to tell the truth and heal the wrongs of the past before that can happen”, Mr Morrison concluded.
Further comment: Jim Morrison ph: 0408 917 133
26th July 2016
ROYAL COMMISSION INTO NORTHERN TERRITORY JUVENILE DETENTION ALSO NEEDS TO EXAMINE RECOMMENDATIONS FROM PREVIOUS INQUIRIES
The Bringing Them Home Committee (WA) Inc. (BTHWA) have welcomed the prompt action by the PM to establish a Royal Commission into the shocking situation at juvenile detention centres in the Northern Territory following the revelations on last night’s Four Corners program. They have, however, called for the Terms of Reference to include an examination of the Recommendations of previous Inquiries such as the 1987 Royal Commission into Deaths in Custody and the Bringing Them Home Report, which was tabled in Federal Parliament in 1997.
“Both of these landmark reports were produced over 20 years ago but very few of the recommendations have been implemented” according to BTHWA Co-Convenor, Jim Morrison.
“Sadly, Commonwealth and State Governments have a record of instigating Royal Commissions or Human Rights Commission Inquiries into issues such as deaths in custody or the Stolen Generations but they rarely demonstrate the political will to implement the recommendations!”
“There is no questions that appalling mistreatment of juveniles in detention in the NT needs to be examined as a matter of urgency to ensure that it does not happen again, but governments around Australia need to start taking action to reduce the massive over representation of Aboriginal people in juvenile detention centres in prison around this country.”
“Until the root causes of this tragic situation are dealt with and programs, such as the healing initiatives being pursued by BTHWA, are put in place to deal with them, we will continue to see the tragedies so frighteningly illustrated on Four Corners last night and our First Nation people will continue to fall into a tragic spiral of despair” Mr Morrison concluded.
Further comment: Jim Morrison: 0408 917 133
30th May 2016
Stolen Generation Group calls for apology and community education to end ill-informed commentary
The Bringing Them Home Committee (WA), which is the major advocate for Stolen Generations people in Western Australia, has called for greater community education about the Stolen Generations in the light of recent revelations that a political candidate had criticised the Apology to the Stolen Generations in the past.
“We have called on the Liberal Candidate for the State seat of Midland, Daniel Parasiliti, to apologise for his outrageous and ill-informed comments”, according to the Aboriginal Co-Convenor of the Bringing Them Home Committee (WA), Jim Morrison.
“When the then Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, delivered an Apology to the Stolen Generations in 2008, the Bringing Them Home Committee (WA) expressed concern that unless the broader community understood the context and history around the removal of Aboriginal Children from their families, the Apology would have little meaning or impact”.
“The revelations today about past comments by Mr Parasiliti bear testimony to our concerns.”
“Our Committee ran the largest Sorry Day event in Australia last Thursday, 26th May, on the nineteenth anniversary of the tabling of the Bringing Them Home Report in the Federal Parliament. Sadly, the 2,000 schoolchildren and 1,000 community members who attended the event also confirmed our worst fears in that most told us that they knew little or nothing about the Stolen Generations.”
“It is long overdue for the recommendations of the Bringing Them Home Report, which focus on the three key areas of Truth, Justice and Healing to be implemented so that we can hopefully avoid such ill-informed comments in the future.”
This week is National Reconciliation Week (NRW) and the theme this year is “Our History, Our Story, Our Future”. As the NRW website explains, “‘Our History’ reminds us all that historical acceptance is essential to our reconciliation journey. Historical acceptance will exist when all Australians understand and accept the fact that past laws, practices and policies deeply affected the lives of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, often having devastating immediate impacts and causing much of the disadvantage that exists today. It is also a commitment to ensuring these wrongs are never repeated in the future.”
“Mr Parasiliti should now accept that his comments were based on ignorance and publicly apologise to the Stolen Generations, but we also hope that during this Reconciliation Week 2016, that all Party Leaders and political candidates in both Federal and State Elections commit to a comprehensive school and community education program about the Stolen Generations and Aboriginal History so that we can heal these very real historical wounds” Mr Morrison concluded.
For comment: Jim Morrison: 0408 917 133
26th May 2015
Sorry Day Event Promises to be the Biggest Ever
The Bringing Them Home Committee (WA) in conjunction with a wide range of partners will be holding its Annual Sorry Day commemoration at Wellington Square again this year and it promises to be the biggest ever!
This year we will continue the tradition that we have established in recent years of focussing on the involvement of schoolchildren to ensure that the story of the Stolen Generations is not lost. We are anticipating in excess of 1500 schoolchildren from across the Perth metropolitan to turn up at Wellington Square in East Perth from mid morning to participate in a wide range of activities.
The more traditional commemoration event will take place at lunchtime and we anticipate many hundreds of people from the Aboriginal community plus members of the broader community who work in the City and East Perth to join us for this important day to acknowledge the ongoing trauma being suffered by the Stolen Generations and their families.
For further comment:
Jim Morrison: 0408 917 133 or Alan Carter 0428 250 155
12TH February 2015
APOLOGY DAY ANNIVERSARY 2015 – TIME TO LOOK
AT THE DOUBLE GAP
This year is the Seventh Anniversary of the Apology to the Stolen Generations and we have seen the release of yet another disappointing report card by the Federal Government on Closing the Gap. It is time, however, to remind the Government that the Apology was focussed on the Stolen Generations and research clearly highlights the reality that there is also an additional gap in health and wellbeing outcomes between the Stolen Generations and their families and the broader Aboriginal community.
Aboriginal Co-Convenor of the Bringing Them Home Committee (WA), Jim Morrison stated on hearing the outcomes of the Close the Gap Report, “We have been aware through many community reports that there are poorer outcomes in health and wellbeing measures for the Stolen Generations and we were delighted that academic research by Associate Professor Michael Dockery from Curtin University provides clear, undeniable evidence to confirm our perceptions.”
Associate Professor Dockery says in one of his Research Papers:
“The legacy of these policies (the policy of removing Aboriginal children from their families) is still apparent in significantly worse health status and higher incidences of arrest and alcohol abuse. Even though these policies were intended to accelerate the integration of Indigenous people into the mainstream economy, the results pertaining to employment outcomes suggest they had exactly the opposite effect” (Michael Dockery “Culture and wellbeing: The case of Indigenous Australians”, CLMR DISCUSSION PAPER SERIES 09/01)
“Sadly past Government funding priorities have not acknowledged the need to address this “double gap” in social outcomes and the plight of the Stolen Generations and their families has been largely ignored. We are looking to the Commonwealth Government to redress this oversight as it reviews the funding for Aboriginal programs across the country”, Jim Morrison concluded.
Further comment: Jim Morrison: 0408 917 133
For a full copy of Associate Professor Michael Dockery’s Paper: http://ceebi.curtin.edu.au/local/docs/2009.01_CultureWellbeing.pdf