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The Stolen Generations

The Event

The events of “The Stolen Generation” became known throughout Australia over the last 30 years, despite occurring from the turn of the century.  Since 1788, when Australia was “discovered” or claimed by the British people using the concept of ‘Terra Nullis’ (empty land) there were decades of ‘forced assimilation’ between aboriginal people and the British.

The assimilation resulted in many mixed-race people known as ‘half caste’ which the government saw as a threat due to western law practices which would prioritise land ownership in favour of the Aboriginal people.  This was not initially considered a threat as the British did not expect the Aborigines to last more than a couple of generations and they were never treated as smart, able to think for themselves and were mostly used as free labour at the time (Dale, 2008).

The Government developed the ‘Protection Era’ in the 1900s, where ‘half-caste’ kids were removed from Aboriginal parents under the ‘protection of the government’ for skilled education, training, food and shelter.  Although, they would be separated from their roots, parents, community and the land which was distressing because in Aboriginal cultures, the land is determined by family and kinship arrangements (Price, 2015, p.22).

The Native Welfare Board took thousands of ‘half-caste’ Aboriginal kids from their families and placed them into institutions. The Board used the term ’to protect from the threats of the war’ this time (Price, 2015, p.21-25). They were relocated to ‘institutions’, temporarily, until it would be safe, or until they became old enough and no longer under the control of the Native Affair Departments.  Due to children not being functionally literate, they started employment at an early age as domestic servants. Many children were adopted by white men to raise and assimilate aboriginal children within the ‘Australian culture’ who grew up with no knowledge of their aboriginal identity and culture, most would not have social acceptance based on their appearance and lost identity.

Continued Effect on Indigenous Australians

Historically Disconnected

On 26 May 1997, the report of the Inquiry, ‘Bringing them home’, was tabled in the Commonwealth Parliament and indicated that ongoing ‘psychological and emotional damage renders many people less able to learn social and survival skills’ (Price, 2015, p.26). As a result, the removed children were ‘historically disconnected’ from their traditions, language, cultural and community and they lost their link to their traditional land.

Genocide

The Bringing Them Home report reviewed many testimonies that recognised the events of the stolen generation and was at odds with many previous reports noting that the forcible transfer of children, plans and attempts to destroy a group and that mixed motives are no excuse for genocide (Barta, 2008).

The notion of genocide for the stolen generation appeared in discussions noting the recognition of atrocities that can be confronting and the conflict continued as recently as December 2016 with the desire to build a memorial in Tasmania facing opposition from the Hobart Mayor who did not want to invoke guilt in the community (Shine & Aird, 2016).  The aboriginal people wanted to acknowledge the tragedies that happened over the last 200 years noting specifically the extermination of the Tasmanian Aboriginal people.

Self-Determination

First moral rights were obtained in 1967, when a historical referendum indicated that more than 90% white Australians supported the rights of black ones, but Australian political and bureaucratic leaders did not take it seriously (Foley, 2011, p.612).  The major second moral victory was an Aboriginal Embassy in 1972 for six months, on the lawn of Parliament House in Canberra. It forced changes in the national agenda and brought Aboriginal issues in to focus where they remain.

Identity

The importance of learning an Aborigines language at school settings will result in developing self-esteem and acceptance from the community noting that “Without knowledge of our language, we feel culturally and spiritually diminished”. (Price, 2015, p.141). Indigenous people feel excluded and isolated at schools because of language differences.

Community Learnings

National apology and acceptance of responsibility

National Apology to the Stolen Generation, on 13 February 2008, was an act of accepting responsibilities in 2008 and National Compensation Fund under the auspices of the Council of Australian Government should be established (Perkins, 2008).

‘Our ignorance and our prejudice’ (Keene, n.d.) is the main concern to overcome the barrier of misunderstanding and hostility and allow both groups to spend time together on a more personal level.

Social Justice and Treaty

There is a need to change Social Perception of Racism throughout mass-media institutions, education, government and personal acceptance and building Australian Identity on the concept of multiculturalism (Kress, 1988, p.52).  Bringing awareness to change perceptions, creating positive images of Aborigines and giving them respect and appreciation of their talents and uniqueness also letting them know how proud we are to work and live together (Barakat, Tedtalks, 2016).

Appreciation of the Land and Connectedness

The culture provides for the learning from Aborigines about the importance of the land and connectedness.  In relation to the land thus attached to the estates and its part – ranges and units (Kress p.39).

Incorporation into Future Teachings

De-colonial goals and Practice of Freedom

While we teach students about the ‘way they think’, their dispositions for more open enquiry and reflection will be developed by applying Bennett’s framework to adopt cultural differences (Climillo, 2011, p.8). ‘Interplay Wellbeing Framework’ was developed alongside with Aboriginal communities that reflects on measuring system against not our world view but their values, goals and beliefs (Cairney, Tedtalks, 2016). ‘Freedom to be themselves’ underlies in the concepts of empowerment, culture and community interlink with health, education and employment.

History lesson and Cultural competency

Inclusion in national history curriculum that fact of the forcible removal should be taught at primary and secondary schools not to be guilty of but learn from terrible mistakes of our nation and stretch the possibility of incorporating those into building an understanding and appreciation of Aborigines presence and history. Using their approach to share skills from elders as a personal training without standardised testing instead focusing on the process (Cairney, Tedstalk, 2016; Yunkaporta & McGinty, p.66-67, 2009). Teachers need to become ‘culturally competent’ and gain and use this knowledge in order to embrace Aboriginal legacy and change social perception and learn from it. (Pries, 2015, p.177).

Cultural practices, languages and Cultural interface

Using their language (Dress p.142), stories such as ‘Namorrodor’ (Lewis, 2007), drawings/symbols and dancing for math expression and re-telling a story (Pries, 2015, p117). as a transparent form of communication and social action that could convey as the metaphors and learning resources (Kress p.82).  The notion of language as a social practice will lead teachers to challenge our own identity and practices (Beynes n.d.; Perso, 2012, p. ) with a string focus on power sharing and flexibility in the classroom (Kress p.128). Interconnectedness of language and culture/society always will occur in linguistic action throughout Nakata’s Cultural Interface theory, social positioning and reflection, but it cannot reform society along (Lowe & Yunkaporta, n.d.; Mclaughin & Whatman, 2016, p.2). Other kinds of social action have to accompany the linguistic action that will convey a ’new Australian-Aboriginal’ meaning and shift the power-weal to equality.

 

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