The Guardian • Issue #2104

Remembering the Stolen Generations during National Reconciliation Week in WA

Carrolup Aboriginal Children, 1945.

Carrolup Aboriginal Children, 1945.

Every year the Western Australian Department of Justice puts on a symposium during Reconciliation Week that highlights a part of the State’s history of its interaction with our Aboriginal peoples. This year the Department of Justice chose the Stolen Generations and looked at the history of removing of Aboriginal children from their parents and of keeping them in missions and other state institutions – and the effects which this had on the children, the parents, their culture and society.

The proceedings were started by Reverend Mitchell Garland giving the Welcome to Country in the Noongar language and thanking the Elders for passing on culture and language which helps Aboriginal people grow into their identity.

Commissioner of Corrective Services, Brad Royce commended Rev Garland for giving the Welcome in Noongar. Commissioner Royce noted that the prison system in WA had a population of 7,500 of which 40 per cent of those in custody are Aboriginal. This Royce said was an effect of colonisation and intergenerational trauma and noted that this year’s Reconciliation theme, “Now more than ever,” it was time to change the narrative.

Jim Morrison, Chair of the Stolen Generations Committee Aboriginal Corporation introduced the theme of the Stolen Generations by mentioning the architect of much of the machinery of government responsible for removing Aboriginal Children, A O. Neville (known to Aboriginal people at the time as, Neville the Devil). Morrison said that the Chief Protector under the Aborigines Act 1905 had as their aim to breed out the Aboriginal ‘race,’ a form of genocide and eugenics. WA was the worst state in Australia for taking children away from Aboriginal parents. Today we continue to see the effects of this policy through intergenerational trauma and the large number of Aboriginal youth at the Banksia Hill Detention Centre and the auxiliary Unit 18 for the more serious offenders based inside the states maximum security Casuarina Prison. Morrison added, “We have a joined history of black and white and for reconciliation to be achieved we cannot do it without truth, justice, and healing.  Morrison was also a collaborator in a film documentary currently screening in WA, “Genocide in the Wildflower State,” about the Stolen Generations in WA.

The symposium heard from Tim Flowers taken from his mother in the 1960s and placed in Marribank Mission run by the Baptist Church near Katanning. Tim did not see his mother again for 14 years.

Garry Ryder was born in 1945 on the Northampton Reserve and  was taken to Marribank Mission. He remembered being flogged with belts and fan belts for minor transgressions.

Jim Morrison continued by saying the children used to write letters to their families and when they left the mission and saw their families again they wondered what happened to the letters. They found out much later that the superintendent used to rip up all the letters on the premise that, what happened in Marribank stayed in Marribank.

The trauma which impacts the children stays with them too and is often passed on to the next generations. People often don’t like to hear the truth, but it is truth and healing which are part of reconciliation and for which they should also receive compensation. Jim Morrison said we should never shy away from righting a wrong and allowing justice to occur. Aboriginal people have been here for over 65,000 years and have had the white man turn their world upside in less than 200 years.

The Aboriginal people who were part of this symposium also feature in the documentary film, Genocide in Wildflower State (currently screening at Luna Leederville Cinema in Perth) and describes the experiences in many other missions including Wandering Mission, Gnowangerup Mission, Roelands Mission, Sister Kate’s, and the New Norcia Catholic Mission, an especially dreadful place for young girls as well as young boys, where British migrant children after World War II were also dispatched as well as Aboriginal children.

The Communist Party of Australia condemns the institutional practices of the missions part of the ongoing colonial settler violence which sought to expropriate the land of the First Nations people of Australia and empty this land of its people.

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