'Unfinished business' of stolen generations puts more children at risk – report


Call for action on the 54 Bringing Them Home recommendations, most of which have either not been adopted or have only been partly implemented


Chris Sarra: Too many Indigenous children are taken from their families


The failure to implement the recommendations of the Bringing Them Home report has prolonged the social burden of trauma caused by forced child removals and potentially exposed another generation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children to harm, a new study has said.


Launched ahead of Friday’s 20th anniversary of the report, the study by the Healing Foundation will be presented to the prime minister, Malcolm Turnbull, at a breakfast in Canberra on Tuesday.


It argues that the 54 recommendations of the Bringing Them Home report, most of which have either not been implemented or have only been partially implemented, remained “unfinished business”.


“There is no way of knowing what the contemporary Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander world would look like had there been a concerted effort to implement the Bringing Them Home vision for the future,” the report said.


“But it is clear that the failure to properly implement this vision represents a significantly missed opportunity to address trauma in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities and to provide a basis for genuine reconciliation in Australia.”


The report calls for research into intergenerational trauma, an increase in direct funding toward Indigenous-run healing centres and programs designed explicitly for members of the stolen generation, and immediate action to introduce a compensation scheme for stolen generation members.


A compensation scheme was one of the key recommendations of the Bringing Them Home report and was also recommended by a Senate inquiry in 2000. But the federal government has deflected responsibility for compensation to the churches, and state government welfare agencies directly involved in child removal.


At least 15,000 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children – an estimated one in 10 Indigenous children – were taken from their families under assimilationist government policies that were not repealed until the 1970s. A further 150,000 were directly affected by the policy by losing their child or sibling, or growing up with a parent struggling with the unresolved trauma of being taken away.


The Bringing Them Home report found the forced removal was “an act of genocide” and set out a list of reparations, starting with a formal apology which was delivered by then prime minister Kevin Rudd in 2008.


The chairman of the Healing Foundation, Prof Steve Larkin, said there appeared to be a belief that the apology alone would be enough to help members of the stolen generation heal.


“Just acknowledging that those acts occurred doesn’t mean that people heal immediately, they require a lot of intensive support and services over time to heal,” he said in an interview with Guardian Australia.


Larkin, a Kungarakan man, said the continued over-representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in out-of-home care, while not born out of the same explicitly racist policies, could not be isolated from the impacts of intergenerational trauma caused by forced removal.


“If you’ve got that very distressed, traumatised view of the world, then those sorts of things get passed on to children about how they have to understand and navigate the world,” he said. “A distrust of institutions, a distrust of authority, low self-belief, low self-confidence, low self-esteem… inevitably what we’re seeing is those things pass from stolen generation members to their children to their grandchildren.


“Stolen generation members are adamant and desperate to disrupt that cycle. They don’t want that to happen for their children.”