Petition for Stolen Generations Compensation Tabled in State Parliament
At this year’s Sorry Day Commemoration on 26th May, we marked 25 years since the tabling of the landmark report into the Stolen Generations, the “Bringing Them Home Report”, and on that day we launched a Petition to the Legislative Council in the WA Parliament calling for Compensation for Stolen Generations Survivors in line with two of the recommendations from that Report.
When the Petition was launched, Jim Morrison, the Chair of the Western Australian Stolen Generations Aboriginal Corporation, highlighted the significant unfinished business from the Bringing Them Home Report. He stated: “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!”
Today we were delighted to be at Parliament House with Hon. Brad Pettit MLC, who tabled the Petition on our behalf. Tony Hansen, the Aboriginal Co-Chair of Bringing Them Home WA stated: “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 delighted that this Petition to the Legislative Council has been tabled with over 1300 signatures”.
“We are calling on the Legislative Council to set up a Committee Inquiry into Stolen Generations Compensation Schemes which have been established in other States, with a view to recommending the establishment of a similar scheme in this State. It would be a great disappointment and a travesty of justice if Stolen Generations Survivors in Western Australia were left as the only Survivors in Australia who have not been properly compensated!”
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
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