What are the Stolen Generations? Which legal steps were taken to allow the forced removal of Indigenous kids from their families?
By
SBS Staff

25 May 2012 - 12:00 AM  UPDATED 3 Sep 2013 - 6:00 PM

The "Stolen Generations" is the name given to at least 100,000 Aboriginal children who were forcibly removed or taken under duress from their families by police or welfare officers between 1910 and 1970, as stated in in the Bringing Them Home Report.

Here are some key dates and events in the history of the Stolen Generations.

1869

The Aborigines Protection Act (Vic) establishes an Aborigines Protection Board in Victoria, giving the Governor the power to order the removal of any child from their family to a reformatory or industrial school.

1883

The NSW Aborigines Protection Board is established to manage the lives of 9,000 people.

1897

The Aboriginal Protection and Restriction of the Sale of Opium Act (Qld) allows the Chief Protector to remove local Aboriginal people onto and between reserves and hold children in dormitories. The Director of Native Welfare is the legal guardian of all 'aboriginal' children whether their parents are living or not until 1965.

1905

The Aborigines Act (WA) is passed. Under the act, the Chief Protector is made the legal guardian of every Aboriginal and 'half-caste' child under 16 years old. In the following years, other states and territories enact similar laws.

1909

The Aborigines Protection Act (NSW) gives the Aborigines Protection Board power to assume full control and custody of the child of any Aborigine if a court found the child to be neglected under the Neglected Children and Juvenile Offenders Act 1905 (NSW).

1911

The Aborigines Act (SA) makes the Chief Protector the legal guardian of every Aboriginal and 'half-caste' child. The Chief Protector is replaced by the Aborigines Protection Board in 1939 and guardianship power is repealed in 1962.

The Northern Territory Aboriginals Ordinance (Cth) gives the Chief Protector power to assume custody of any Aboriginal or 'half-caste' if it is deemed 'necessary' or 'desirable'.

1915

The Aborigines Protection Amending Act (NSW) gives power to the Aboriginal Protection Board to separate Indigenous children from their families without the need to establish neglect in court.

1935

The introduction of the Infants Welfare Act (Tas) is used to remove Indigenous children on Cape Barren Island from their families.

1937

The first Commonwealth/State conference on 'native welfare' adopts assimilation as the national policy.

1940

The NSW Aborigines Protection Board loses its power to remove Indigenous children. The Board is renamed the Aborigines Welfare Board and is finally abolished in 1969.

1969

By 1969, all states have repealed the legislation allowing for the removal of Aboriginal children under the policy of 'protection'. In the following years, Aboriginal and Islander Child Care Agencies are set up to contest removal applications and provide alternatives to the removal of Indigenous children from their families.

1980

The first Link-Up Aboriginal Corporation is established in NSW. It provides family tracing, reunion and support services for forcibly removed children and their families.

1983

The Aboriginal Child Placement Principle is introduced in the Northern Territory, aiming to ensure that Indigenous children are placed with Indigenous families when adoption or fostering is necessary.

This is followed in NSW (1987), Victoria (1989), South Australia (1993), Queensland and the ACT (1999), Tasmania (2000) and Western Australia (2006).

1994

The 'Going Home Conference' in Darwin brings together over 600 Aboriginal people removed as children to discuss common goals of reparations.

1995

The Commonwealth Government establishes the National Inquiry into the Separation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children from their Families.

1997

The Human Rights and Equal Opportunities Commission (HREOC) presents 'Bringing Them Home', its report on the findings of the 'National Inquiry into the Separation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children from their Families to the Commonwealth Government'. The report made 54 recommendations, including a formal government apology, monetary compensation and other reparations to members of the Stolen Generations.

The parliaments and governments of all states and the ACT issue apologies to the Stolen Generations.

The Australian Government unveils its response to the Bringing Them Home' report, featuring a $63 million practical assistance package but rejects the recommendations for an apology or compensation scheme.

1998

HREOC releases the 'Social Justice Report', which includes a summary of responses from the churches, and non-Indigenous community to the Inquiry's recommendations, and an 'Implementation Progress Report'.

The National Archives of Australia launches its Bringing Them Home indexing project to identify and preserve records about Indigenous people and communities.

The National Sorry Day Committee is formed to organise an annual National Sorry Day on 26 May to commemorate the history of forcible removals and their effects. It becomes an annual event.

1999

The Federal Parliament passes a Motion of Reconciliation expressing “deep and sincere regret over the removal of Aboriginal children from their parents" but stops short of apologising.

2000

Over 250,000 people participate in the Corroboree 2000 “Sorry" Walk across Sydney Harbour Bridge on 28 May. Similar walks are held in the other State and Territory capitals.

The UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination expresses concern about the Australian Government's decision not to make a national apology or consider monetary compensation and criticises its inadequate response to recommendations from Bringing Them Home.

An inquiry into the Federal Government's implementation of the 'Bringing Them Home' recommendations is undertaken by the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs References Committee. It results in the 'Healing: A Legacy of Generations Report'.

2001

The Northern Territory Government presents a parliamentary motion of apology to people who were removed from their families.

Pope John Paul II issues a formal apology on behalf of the Vatican to the affected Aboriginal families for the actions of Catholic authorities or organisations in connection with the Stolen Generations.

HREOC and the Public Interest Advocacy Centre (PIAC) host the Moving Forward conference which explores ways of providing reparations to the Stolen Generations.

2002

PIAC releases its report on the Moving Forward conference, titled 'Restoring Identity'. The report presents a proposal for a reparations tribunal.

As part of the Victorian Government's response to the Bringing Them Home, Victoria establishes a Stolen Generations taskforce.

The NSW Victims Compensation Tribunal awards compensation to Stolen Generations member Valerie Linow for sexual abuse suffered while in State care. Linow becomes the first member of the Stolen Generations to be awarded compensation.

National Library of Australia's oral history project, 'Many Voices: Reflections on Experience of Indigenous Child Separation', is published with members of the Stolen Generations.

2003

The Ministerial Council for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs (MCATSIA) commissions and releases an independent evaluation of responses to the Bringing Them Home Report.

The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner publicly criticises the failure of governments to apologise and provide financial and social reparations to the Stolen Generation.

2004

The Commonwealth Government establishes a memorial to the Stolen Generations at Reconciliation Place in Canberra.

461 “Sorry Books", recording the reflections of Australians on the Stolen Generations, are entered on the Australian Memory of the World Register as part of UNESCO's program to preserve and promote material with significant historical value.

2005

The National Sorry Day Committee announces that Sorry Day will become a “National Day of Healing for All Australians".

The first official Sorry Day ceremony outside Australia is hosted in Lincoln Fields, London, on 25 May.

2006

The Tasmanian Government sets up Australia's first Stolen Generations compensation scheme through the Stolen Generations of Aboriginal Children Act 2006 (Tas).

2007

Bruce Trevorrow becomes the first member of the Stolen Generations to successfully sue the state for compensation as a result of his removal from his family as a baby. The South Australian Supreme Court awards Mr Trevorrow $775,000 in damages.

2008

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, on behalf of the Australian Parliament, makes a historic national apology to the Stolen Generations.

The Senate rejects the Stolen Generation Compensation Bill which calls for ex gratia payments to be made to the Stolen Generations of Aboriginal children.

2009

The Australian Government formally endorses the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Article 8 requires governments to prevent and provide remedies for forced assimilation, forced population transfers and dispossession from lands.

The Australian government commits to the establishment of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Healing Foundation to address trauma and healing, with a particular focus on the Stolen Generations.

NSW Governor Marie Bashir launches the 'Kinchela Boys' Home Aboriginal Corporation Strategic Plan' to help Aboriginal men who passed through Kinchela Boys' Home with counselling programs.