the stolen generation

The ideas here are from a study guide taken from www.rabbitprooffence.com.au - which is no longer an educational site, but a business site for a fence company. The study guide uses Doris Pilkington's award-winning novel Follow the Rabbit-Proof Fence (which was also made into a film) as a reference.

Originally from the now defunct rabbitprooffence.com.au:

When white settlers arrived in Australia, the interaction of two vastly different cultures, with such different attitudes to the land, made conflict inevitable.

In the 19th century, the white man’s guns were more powerful than Aboriginal spears. By the mid-19th century, European pastoralists and settlers had moved into Aboriginal lands, interrupted traditional hunting and gathering routines, depleted natural resources and grasslands, polluted waterways and damaged sacred sites. European diseases such as smallpox and even the common cold decimated the Indigenous population. Alcohol and money further undermined traditional ways.

In many areas, Europeans challenged the whole structure of Aboriginal traditional society and the authority of tribal elders was broken down. They had always controlled decision-making structures such as marriage, education, and rituals such as clan gatherings, but more and more young Aboriginal people began to be attracted to white society and began to live on the fringe of both worlds.

By the 1930s, when the story of Rabbit-Proof Fence is set, many communities had become reliant on government handouts for food, clothing and other necessities, since their traditional ways of life had been eroded over time.

Why were Aboriginal children taken from their families? From the earliest years of European settlement in Australia, there is evidence of Aboriginal children being taken from their families as the authorities believed it was ‘for their own good’. During the first half of the 20th century, it was official policy in most states to remove half or quarter caste Aboriginal children. The practice continued until the early 1970s...

Thousands of Aboriginal children were forcibly taken from their families or their families were ‘tricked’ into giving them up. The policy was definitely aimed at ‘breeding out’ Aboriginality, because only half and quarter caste children were taken. Fully Aboriginal half brothers or sisters in the same families were left with their parents, while their lighter siblings were removed. If the policy was really about giving Aboriginal children a better life, then all children of an allegedly ‘bad mother’ would have been taken.

Whilst some gained opportunities, education and a materially better life, the vast majority went to missions, orphanages or children’s homes where they were poorly treated and suffered identity crises and mental anguish. Many of the Aboriginal people who today are alcoholics, drug addicts, psychologically damaged or imprisoned were ‘stolen’ children, and continue to suffer the effects of the destruction of their identity, family life and culture.