Still Stolen – The Stolen Generation(s)
By Polly Tikkle
The Stolen Generation refers to the thousands of aboriginal children who were stolen from their parents and placed in foster homes or institutionalized in Australia. The Rabbit Proof Fence and Australia are films that depict this legalized procedure in historical times. This particular white barbarity however stopped in 1972 and was not retrospective. In essence, it seems it is happening again.
My Experience With The Stolen Generation.
In 1996-7 I worked at the PowerHouse Museum in Sydney as the AV technician. I would operate the 300 seater and the 100 seater from the same booth which straddled the middle at the back of each theater. One of my better jobs.
In this time the harrowing truth of the Aboriginal people’s stolen generation had begun to burst out of Australia’s indigenous people’s hearts and onto the public platform.
The Power House museum donated their theaters for the Stolen Generation campaign to hold conferences, meeting, gatherings. I was the AV tekkie that came with the theaters.
The Stolen Generation refers to the thousands of toddlers and children who were stolen from their mothers and fathers and placed in foster homes. Both the Rabbit Proof Fence and Australia are films that depict this legalized horror but both illustrate it as procedure that happened in historical times. This white barbarity stopped in 1972 and that does not mean that the kids of that time were returned to their parents.
2 our of the 3 aboriginal women I knew were stolen generation.
The official line was that is was in the child’s best interest. From personal experience I can vouch that the pain caused did not benefit the women who were once those children and that such pain is sadly inter-generational.
The abundantly confirmed procedure was that the parents were told that the kids were being taken away to boarding school and would be returned at the end of the term. The kids would then be told that their parents did not want them back. Some were too young to remember what their parents looked like once they grew up, and many grew up believing the white lie.
I recall being emotionally speared by the stories I heard while fiddling with the sound knobs and lighting sliders. Luckily I was behind a reflective glass as the ominous controller of all that is technical.
I recall a woman telling her story: She had never known her mother, not even her name. When she gave birth to her daughter she felt compelled to find out once and for all whether her mother really had discarded her. It took her months to track her down. In that time she discovered that she had named her daughter unknowingly her mother’s name. She further discovered that her mother had died the same month that she had given birth. Her mother had never stopped waiting for her to return.
Microphones did not come on on time, videos sounds were too loud or too soft, I was an emotional mess. Tears pouring as a faucet had opened in me. It felt wrong and foolish to feel so much for a pain that was not mine. Hardened old men, spoke of incest being perpetrated against them and how they grew up believing that they deserved to be punished, because their parent no longer wanted them. All of the men has spent time in jail it seemed.
“Video . Video. Can we have the video please?”
They probably thought “well don’t get nothing good for free’
It was a beautiful irony that the few children who grew up in loving white families instead of institutions, who were educated through university would use their knowledge of the white man’s world to tell the white world what happened, when it happened, and why it happened and seek compensation for it.
A grassroots campaign of imprints of hands on street walls, pavements, fences, lamp posts etc, had taken off around that time (1997) and was an expression of solidarity with the Stolen Generation. Hand shaped placards were used in all demos relating to the subject.
I helped build the float themed for the Stolen Generation which a small sea of dykes & fags & friends followed waving hand shaped placards while exhibiting hand imprints on their half naked bodies for the Mardi Gras of 1998. We were by far one of the most populated floats (top 3) that year, but the TV crews did not film us. It was the first year I believe that the Mardi Gras was televised.
Kevin Rudd , the Australian Prime Minister from 2007 to 2010, apologised to the Aboriginal population for the Stolen Generation in 2008 Feb 13. Bus loads of interested people went to Canberra on that day to sit in the grass outside parliament and hear the man apologize for all of us. He allowed us to feel forgiven for the privilege we don’t deserve and would never give up. Rudd made international news as the first colonial government to acknowledge the pain (but not the land grab)
Sadly it seems that the dissemination of aboriginal culture in its many forms has never really stopped. It just went on a break for a few years. All Kevin 007’s words have moved on like perfectly white fluffy clouds inherently do. Is it a land grab for mining or a calculated bloodless genocide? I do not know. I wrote this to share my experience as an AV technician, hearing people talk publicly for the first time about such deep and tragically unneccessary pain at the hands of white Australia for what seems to be the sake of whiteness!