The diversity of practices and policies that underpinned the forceful removal of the indigenous children in different territories mean that the experiences of the members of the stolen generations differed widely depending on where they lived and where they were removed to. Yet the consensus is that the legacy of the stolen generation has had and continues to have a devastating and immediate impact on the immediate survivors and also their generation. It is estimated that more than 10,000 children were forcibly removed from their homes and communities, with the figures undoubtedly much higher than what is documented. Evidence presented detail that the children experienced harsh, inhumane, and degrading treatment. So devastating were the experiences that it seems ironic that the now very same government that advocates for equality is the same one that implemented such inhumane policies.
An Overwhelming number of children were forcibly removed from their culture, communities, and families and even forbidden from speaking their native language. Several children were forced to believe that their families had given them over to foster homes because they were unloved, and others were told that third parents had done. Several tactics were undertaken, including brainwashing the children by speaking in derogatory ways about their culture all to indoctrinate and diminish their desire of the children to return to their kins and tribes. Even sad was the fact that the government could not provide the children with the comfort to at least help them in the transition. For the most part, indigenous children were placed in harsh and sparse institutions; most of the institutions were understaffed and fell far below the standard of other non-indigenous children home. In these homes, the children were just taught basic literacy, numerical skills, and life skills, which limited their employment prospects to roles such as menial laborers or domestic servants. Children were severally punished for minor transgressions, and sexual abuse and exploitation was common despite the living arrangement.
For many who survived the resulting pain, unresolved grief, trauma, and suffering have left scars that law and policies cannot heal. Further, there has been an intergenerational effect of the removal, such that the trauma did not just stop with the children that were removed, but was inherited by their children in an increasingly complex and heightened way. This means that healing efforts should not only be considered for the children that were left but also their mothers, families, and the community.
I know that the past cannot be undone, and that is why the government should work towards implementing effective healing policies. Most important is that the government should note that healing is not a onetime thing; healing occurs throughout a person’s life as well as across the generation. Healing can be experienced in many ways. However, mostly healing is about renewal, and choosing to leave behind the things that have caused us pain with the hope for a better future and renewed strength and enthusiasm.
I feel that the government has not done enough to help the indigenous community heal. To date, the government has not done much to implement policies that emphasize self-determination for the indigenous communities. For example, there are still systematic and institutional biases that disproportionately affect the indigenous communities. An aboriginal child/adult is thrice as likely to suffer from mental health and to be involved in crime because of the social disadvantage and past trauma, yet there are no differentiated laws to handle the disparities. I feel that there is a need to support indigenous based services and organizations to develop and led their healing responses and also enable the community to overcome intergenerational trauma. Only the indigenous people understand the full extent of the impact of the removal services. Therefore, assistance to readdress the effects should be designed and also provided for by the indigenous people themselves.
While countries like Australia initiated a national apology, Canada is yet to do so. In 2008 Prime Minister Stephen Harper offered an apology to the Aboriginals on behalf of the Canadians, acknowledging the responsibility of the predecessors for the policies, practices, and laws that enhanced forcible removal. Years later, we must continue to recognize the pain and trauma that was created by the forced removal of the children. It’s not too much to ask just a little sensitivity in dealing with the indigenous community. Sharing their stories to our kids in the future may help them understand the impact of intergenerational trauma and limit incidences of bullying and thereby promote the healing journey.