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Essay 1

Maria Alessi



Indigenous Education and Perspectives


Assessment 2
The Stolen Generation




By Maria Alessi

5849152




Essay 2

Maria Alessi

The forced removal of young Indigenous children from their families and
communities affected numerous amounts of people and created what we now refer to as The
Stolen Generation. So many Indigenous children were abused and mistreated and compelled
to assimilate to Western ways and relinquish all their ties with their culture, language and
land rights. The ongoing effect is apparent when considering this generations constant
struggle with unemployment, poverty, loss of identity and sense of belonging. Although a
formal apology has been granted the reconciliation process is far from over. Non Indigenous
Australians need to learn to respect and accept Indigenous cultures, beliefs and languages and
all schools should incorporate and prioritise Indigenous Australian knowledge and history in
their teachings. Also the importance of teaching Indigenous languages in schools is
unequivocal as Indigenous children should be permitted to learn about their heritage and in an
environment that is relevant to their lifestyle and in their native language.

One of the most prejudiced government policies in Australian history relates to the
Stolen Generation, when young Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children were forcibly
removed from their families and placed into Non Indigenous foster families and government
institutions (Reconciliation Australia, 2010). The Act that the Victorian Parliament passed in
1869 allowed authorities to remove these Indigenous children from their families, but only if
they were being neglected or harmed. This however was not the case and Indigenous children
were being removed solely because of their race and colour of their skin (McIntyre, &
McKeich, 2009). The government believed Indigenous Australian children were
disadvantaged living with their families as Aboriginal communities were considered
uncivilised and lacked any economic or social structure (Reconciliation Australia, 2010). The
government also made the Australian public believe that the children were at risk and would
receive a better education in a more loving family, and have a more civilised upbringing in
Essay 3

Maria Alessi

adopted white families or in government institutions (The History of the stolen generation,
Nd). The reality was however, that the government was trying to eradicate Indigenous
Australians and make them assimilate to western cultures and ways, and consequently
disregard their own language, culture and identity. Hundreds of thousands of Aboriginal
children were removed from their families and it wasnt until 1972 that a new law was passed
and the unjust removal of Indigenous children was stopped (Price, 2012).A formal
government inquiry into the Stolen Generation in 1997 uncovered startling revelations and
truths, with over seven hundred submissions from individuals and organisations, and The
Bringing Them Home report was compiled (Australian Human Rights Commission, nd). The
severity and wide spread impact on Indigenous Australians was acknowledged by the
Australian Government and an official apology was made to members of the Stolen
Generation by Kevin Rudd on 13 February 2008. Although the misconducts of the past
cannot be forgotten the first step in reconciliation is to acknowledge the truth and to
apologise by saying sorry for the injustices of the past Australian governments policies.

The effect on Indigenous Australian communities, families and individuals by this
form of genocide (Price, 2012) is long lasting and in many cases detrimental to all involved.
Many Indigenous children lost their entire identity with their language, culture, families,
communities and land rights taken away from them. Children could not use their language,
were forced to learn and speak in English only and were denied any communication with
their family (Australian Human Rights Commission, nd). Indigenous children were banned
from practising any customs or traditional rituals and were compelled to forget about their old
way of life. Many of them also had their names and dates of birth changed and that's why
today, a lot of them don't know who they are, where they're from. We've got to watch today
that brothers aren't marrying sisters (Bringing them home report, 1997, para 14). Although
Essay 4

Maria Alessi

the authorities would tell the Indigenous families the children were receiving good education,
many received little or no education. Numerous institutionalised children were subjected to
sexual assault, beatings, lack of food and horrendous living conditions, and some even
compared it to concentration camps. (Bringing it Home Report, 1997).The majority of
children placed in government institutions were continuously moved from one institution to
another and had no stability or opportunity to create a bond or caring relationship with
anyone. Although there were some successful cases of assimilation, and these Indigenous
children were placed in good, loving foster homes the fact that these children were denied
access to their birth rights cannot be forgotten.
Apart from the horrors that these children experienced, there was so much heartache
and despair for the parents and whole communities were destroyed .It is apparent that the
majority of Indigenous Australians affected by the Stolen Generation continue to fight their
demons with many still finding themselves and their identity. The Indigenous children that
were forcibly removed did not have the important attachment with their family and have been
emotionally and physically scarred. They have no sense of belonging and do not really feel
they fit into either their Indigenous community or Western society. Issues of poverty,
substance abuse, health problems and unemployment are apparent and some of these adults
are now struggling to have stable relationships .It is not unusual for many to constantly move
homes and others are struggling to stay out of prison (McIntyre & McKeich, 2009). The
suicide rate, assaults and homicides are very high and children are requiring protection from
their own families. Discrimination and bias is rife and the way Indigenous Australians are
portrayed in the media are still very stereotypical.
Although many Australians may feel ashamed and disgusted by the actions of past
governments, it is imperative that future educators understand and teach children the facts of
Essay 5

Maria Alessi

The Stolen Generation. Australias Indigenous history must be recognised and better
relationships with Indigenous and Non Indigenous Australians must be built through respect,
trust and by eliminating discrimination and racism. Educators must ensure children learn
about cultures and beliefs of both Western and Indigenous backgrounds (Derman Sparks,
1989) and understand everyone is different. The educators personal approach to racism is
also very important as research reveals societal stereotyping and bias influence childrens
self-concept and attitudes towards others (Deramn- Sparks, 1989, p 1), and children respond
to the way adults act around them. Children need to be taught the truths about Indigenous
Australians and reframe from following in many adults footsteps that unfairly stereotype
Indigenous Australians as people who are lazy and dont want to work (Craven, 2011, p
51). There are also many Indigenous children that were brought up in non-Aboriginal
families who are now considered as half castes (The Half Caste Problem in Australia, n.d)
and feel confused and alone and dont feel accepted within society. Children should be
educated on diversity and acceptance and make these children feel welcome and have a sense
of belonging (Early Childhood Australia, 2012).

Despite the fact that many children of the Stolen Generation were not permitted to
speak their native language and the government tried to totally eradicate it, approximately
one hundred and forty five Indigenous languages still exist (Language and culture, nd).
Unfortunately most of these languages are at serious risk of extinction if government policies
keep changing and the curriculum doesnt formally recognise them. However as statistics
show, Indigenous children are falling behind in both numeracy and literacy (Purdie, 2009)
and the government realises the current teaching methods may not be appropriate. Therefore
the Australian government has committed to provide Indigenous peoples access to an
Essay 6

Maria Alessi

education in their own culture (Purdie, 2009, p 2), allowing them the opportunity to study
their own language at school as part of a bilingual program. It is imperative that children are
taught languages that are relevant to their lives. These bilingual programs teach children
firstly in their native language so children feel confident and understand the concepts, and
then they apply these concepts to the English language. Research shows good bilingual
programs are academically effective and do not hold back students acquisition of English
(Purdie, 2009, p 4). Languages also provide people with pride and respect and knowledge
and information about culture, place, history, spiritual beliefs, kin systems (Language and
culture, nd, para 2). Indigenous Australians should not be limited to only learning Western
content and ideas as they should be able to learn Aboriginal knowledge and perspectives we
value (Jorgenson, R., Grootenboer, P., & Sullivan, P.2013, p 2). If Australians are serious
about maintaining good relationships with Indigenous Australians, then these languages need
to be accepted and respected. This will help in the reconciliation process as saying sorry to
the Stolen Generation was the first step and acknowledging Indigenous languages could be
considered a further step in the right direction.
Bronfenbrenners ecological theory argues that children learn through their
interactions within their community, family and friends (Doherty & Hughes, 2009) and
teaching children the language that is spoken at home makes perfect sense. Although many
Indigenous Australians affected by the Stolen Generation did not have this opportunity to
learn and grow within their own communities, it is imperative to ensure educators of the
future teach the languages and to ensure children learn within context. It is also important to
teach children something they can relate to and understand, as they are more likely to enjoy
learning and become more involved. Chris Garners experience in the Northern Territory
proves teaching Indigenous Australian information that is relevant to their life helps them
attend school and achieve good grades. Ensuring children learn in their own language then
Essay 7

Maria Alessi

allows them to find work within their own communities and promotes the sense of belonging
and family, which is very important in Indigenous societies. It is also important to discuss
with childrens families their expectations and demands of their children and the role they
play in society. It is of little use to educate children in areas they cannot relate to or will not
require in the future.
Although it is evident that teaching Indigenous languages is beneficial the lack of
Indigenous teachers is a major issue. These teachers require specialist training, national
support, co-ordination of Indigenous languages and correct resources (Indigenous Language
Programs in Australian Schools, 2008).Unfortunately many Indigenous people do not have
the confidence or belief that they can possibly become teachers themselves and may not
prioritise education in their lives. However inspirational people like Dr Yunupingu have
proven that a good education is possible and very important in life. He has constantly
encouraged the teaching of Indigenous languages, shown the importance of bilingual
programs and he became a passionate believer in two-way learning for Yolngu students
(Gosford 2013 para 11). Dr Yunupingu also realised the importance of Elders and knew he
needed their support and acceptance, to help educate the future children. Previously Elders
had no faith and trust in Westerners after the unjust treatment in the past, but Dr Yunupingu
convinced them that education was a good thing and children are now being encouraged to
attend school.
Indigenous Australians have been subjected to some horrible treatment by past
Australian governments and policies and they continue to be treated unfairly by many Non
Indigenous Australians. Many people are unaware of the past injustices and horrors that some
Indigenous communities have faced and the idea of children being abused and mistreated is
unthinkable. The ongoing issues of poor school attendance, high unemployment, and poverty
are also very confronting and it is imperative that Indigenous Australian history is prioritised
Essay 8

Maria Alessi

in schools and children of all ages be educated on the truths of the past. Acceptance and
apologies is one part of the reconciliation process but as a country, all Australians should
respect and accept Indigenous cultures and languages and priorities should be placed on
ensuring Indigenous children are provided with education that is relevant and in their native
languages.















Essay 9

Maria Alessi

REFERENCES
About Stolen Generations. (n.d) Retrieved December 5, 2013 from
http://stolengenerationstestimonies.com/index.php/about_stolen_generations.html
Australian Human Rights Commission. Bringing them home. Chapter 10. Retrieved
December 5, 2013 from http://www.humanrights.gov.au/publications/bringing-them-
home-chapter-10#Heading71
Australian Government. Department of Education and workplace Relations (2008)
Indigenous Language Programs in Australian Schools
Craven, R. (2011). Teaching Aboriginal studies a practical resource for primary and
secondary teaching (2nd ed.). Crows Nest: Allen and Unwin.(Chapter 3)
Derman- Sparks, L. (1989). Anti-bias curriculum: Tools for empowering young children.
Washington, DC: National Association for the Education of Young Children
Doherty, J., & Hughes, M. (2009). Child development. England: Longman / Pearson.

Early Childhood Australia. (2012). Respect, Connect, Enact a Reconciliation Action plan for
Early Childhood Australia 20122016. Retrieved 13 December 2013 from
https://www.reconciliation.org.au/getfile?id=368&file=Early+Childhood+Australia+2
012-2016+RAP.pdf
Gosford, B (2013) Yalmay Yunupingu. Today we celebrate a true Yolngu Maralitja Gumatj
man, Dr Djarrtjuntjun Yunupingu Retrieved 13 December 2013 from
http://blogs.crikey.com.au/northern/2013/07/02/yalmay-yunupingu-today-we-
celebrate-a-true-yolngu-maralitja-gumatj-man-dr-djarrtjuntjun-yunupingu/
Essay 10

Maria Alessi

Jorgenson, R., Grootenboer, P., & Sullivan, P. (2013). Pedagogies to enhance learning for
Indigenous students. Evidence-based practice. Dordrecht: Springer. (pp. 1- 20).
Language and Culture (n.d). Retrieved December 5, 2013 from
http://www.irca.net.au/about-irca/friends/sector/language-and-culture

McIntyre, J. & McKeich, A. (2009) Between two worlds, Understanding the stolen
generations. Preston, Victoria: Stolen Generations Victoria
National Sorry Day Committee. (n.d). The History of the stolen Generation. Retreived
December 5, 2013 from http://www.nsdc.org.au/stolen-generations/history-of-the-
stolen-generations/the-history-of-the-stolen-generations
Price, K. (2012). Aboriginal and Torrest Strait Islander education: An introduction for the
teaching profession. (pp. 21-33). Port Melbourne, Victoria: Cambridge University
Press
Purdie A Way forward For Indigenous Languages. Research Developments, Vol. 21
[2009], Art.
2http://research.acer.edu.au/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1059&context=resdev
Reconcilliation Australia. (2010). Acknowledgement of country. Retrieved from
http://www.reconciliation.org.au/home/resources/factsheets/q-a-factsheets/welcome-
to-and-acknowledgement-of-country
The 'half-caste problem' in Australia. Chapter 8. Retrieved December 12 2013 from
http://epress.anu.edu.au/foreign_bodies/mobile_devices/ch08s04.html

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