Tues 26th May 2020 – National Sorry Day : Acknowledging and Remembering The Stolen Generations.
I can’t begin to imagine how it would feel to have my children taken from me. To be deemed an unfit parent because I was the ‘wrong colour’. To go years yearning for my stolen children, wanting to hold them, to tell them I loved them. Not knowing where they were, or how to find them.
And for the children – alone and frightened, unsure of what they had done wrong to be ripped away from their parents. Not allowed to know their own true culture or heritage. Forced instead to conform with a European way of life.
This went on, as official government policy until 1969. In what I had thought of as relatively modern times. Yet families were ripped apart, never to meet again, and for what?
I have heard it said of the Stolen Generations, that this occurred generations ago, and new generations do not have the right to complain about it, as it did not happen to them. Didn’t it?
While some may argue that today’s generations were not directly affected by these atrocities. That their children were not taken from them, neither were they taken from their parents. However, they were denied the opportunity to meet their grandparents and other extended families. They were unable to learn of their own history or culture.
It has become almost fashionable now to look into our family histories, with many opting for online ancestry-DNA testing, to discover ethnicity and genealogy. Is that enough, do you think, to argue that our ancestry, our history, our culture and our heritage are important to us. And so why shouldn’t we believe that this would matter to everyone else.
I was watching Frozen II with my kids, and heard Elsa say :
”that is not what magic does. That's just your fear. Fear is what can't be trusted.”.
It really got me thinking. Although she was referring to magic, she could have been talking about any number of things. If something, or someone is different, rather than attempting to understand, we fear. And it is our fear that determines; and thereby damages or even destroys the potential for future relationships.
I have never considered myself as unfairly biased (racist, sexist, ageist). Not many would. I have, however, identified areas of ignorance within myself. Although I don’t believe I am biased against any group, neither have I spent a lot of time independently discovering the struggles faced by different groups. Does my lack of understanding therefore make me complicit in marginalising different groups?
We all know of the stolen generations, a not so illustrious part of modern Australian history.
It was not particularly common for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to celebrate birthdays, and many of the children stolen from their families were so young, they had no idea when they were born. August 4th was then chosen as the date to celebrate the birthdays of all of these children.
Out of these origins, August 4 has become National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children’s Day. This is a time where all Australians are able together, or individually, to demonstrate their support for Aboriginal children, and an opportunity for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples to celebrate the culture,and the strength of their children.
For non-Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander people, showing support can be as simple as learning a little about the native peoples of this land, their culture, their beliefs. “White Australia” forced our beliefs on the Aboriginal people. It is now time to learn of their culture, to understand what is important to their well-being and sense of self. Let all Australian children know that the future can be equally as bright for them all, that we are trying to level the playing field of life and opportunity in Australia.
My belief, shared by many far more educated and intelligent than myself, is that understanding is the key to acceptance, and belonging. Wouldn’t it be nice, if Australia could become a nation of one people again. Not in the sense that we are all the same, but that we all accept one another, despite cultural differences. We will be one, our children will all have equal opportunity, based on merit, hard work and determination, rather than our cultural beliefs, or the colour of our skin.