About this Project
The ‘Stolen Generations’ Testimonies’ project is an initiative to record on film the personal testimonies of Australia’s Stolen Generations Survivors and share them online.
The Stolen Generations' Testimonies Foundation hopes the online museum will become a national treasure and a unique and sacred keeping place for Stolen Generations’ Survivors’ Testimonies. By allowing Australians to listen to the Survivors’ stories with open hearts and without judgement, the foundation hopes more people will be engaged in the healing process.
In 2009 more than thirty Stolen Generations’ Survivors shared their stories, their memories and themselves in the first round of interviews for the ‘Stolen Generations’ Testimonies Foundation’. These are their testimonies. Thank you to those Survivors for their generosity of spirit in sharing their testimonies with us.
From one of the Survivors
There’s nothing more powerful than the personal story. For people to understand, we have to open ourselves up. It’s hard to tell our personal stories but we are doing this to educate people. For us to heal as a country these are the stories we need to share. They’re sad stories but they’re important stories. For me as a Stolen Generations’ Survivor, I know you don’t get over things. You sometimes don’t fully recover. What you do is you adjust and you build your life around the scars and that’s what you have to do in order to survive. And many of us have survived. Whatever this resilience is, whatever this stuff is that keeps us going, it is the strength of the Aboriginal spirit that keeps us alive. For those people who do feel challenged about the ‘Stolen Generations’, we ask you to listen to just one of these testimonies to see if you still feel the same. That’s all we ask.
What are the Stolen Generations'?
Indigenous children were taken from their families from the very early days of the colony. On the frontier there were many instances of children who were kidnapped by settlers who often became servants for the newcomers. On missions and reserves across the country children were often separated from their families. They slept in dormitories and had very limited contact with their parents. This system helped convert the children to Christianity by removing them from the cultural influence of their people. But the removal of Aboriginal children intensified at the end of the 19th century. There were a number of Aboriginal children being born of mixed race. Colonial authorities believed the children with training and education could be absorbed into the white population ridding them of the so-called ‘half caste’ problem.
Professor Anna Haebich – Historian. “Imagine this scenario of police patrolling and observing things and noting down who was where and looking out for half caste children and then they might do an early morning raid so there everybody is sleeping, they might be just starting to wake up and police come thundering in on their horses. Aboriginal families had developed over time little ways of trying to stop the children from being taken away. They had look-outs and warning systems and kids might rush off into the bush. Some families put them in suitcases, sat on the suitcase, they might have, if they knew about it might have the children blackened up with charcoal.”
Aboriginal children across the country were taken from their families and placed in institutions and foster homes, often not knowing their parents were alive or searching for them. They were taught to reject their Aboriginality, and often experienced abuse and deprivation.
In 1997 the Commonwealth Government undertook an inquiry into the Stolen Generations as these children had come to be known. Hundreds of Survivors gave evidence of their experiences and a report of the extent of these practices was made public.
Professor Marcia Langton- Anthropolgist – “If we were to compare the impact of these so called assimilation policies in their consequences to doing something similar to the Australian population today. Let’s say we’d leave one third of Australians living in their family homes, living their lifestyles. Another third we’d take out of their homes and we’d put them in the illegal immigrant detention centres and then the other third, take them away from their families, their children and we’d enslave them and we’d make them work on cattle stations and on mines or leave them with strange families to cook and clean.”
Many of the Stolen Generations are still finding their way home, still searching for the families they lost and putting together the pieces of their lives.
Caught in an abyss
Thousands of children
Leaving mothers behind
Lost to our Culture, Music, Dance and Art.
Lost to Ourselves – our Families - our Hearts.
As a child – wondering
What did I do wrong?
Who the hell am I?
A feeling so strong
The taunts of a childhood
All a whirl
a little black girl.’
Maori or what?
Some of the questions asked a lot
Too black to be white.
Too white to be black.
Caught in the middle
Belonging no where.
Written by Lorraine McGee-Sippel (1997)
© Stolen Generations' Testimonies Foundation
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers should exercise caution when viewing this website as it contains images of deceased persons.The people speaking in this website describe being removed from family and community. They regard themselves as belonging to the Stolen Generations.