Video : 2008 Australia apology for eugenics policies of the stolen Aborigines’ generation

Sydney, Australia

Aborigines who were taken from their families as children in a policy of forced racial assimilation recived a historic apology from Australia’s new government.

Prime minister Kevin Rudd fulfilled an election campaign promise when he stood up in parliament in Canberra, the capital, and said sorry to the so-called Stolen Generation. The Labor leader said the apology would remove a “blight on the nation’s soul” and had the overwhelming support of Australians.

Supporters say it is of similar magnitude to America’s apology in 1988 for interning Japanese citizens during World War II.

About 13,000 people today identify themselves as either members of the Stolen Generation or relatives who were adversely affected by the long-standing policy. Based on the premise that “full-blood” Aborigines were a race headed for extinction, up to 100,000 mixed-race children were taken from their parents between 1910 and 1970. The children, some of them babies, were often snatched from sobbing mothers by policemen or government officials.

They were then placed in the care of white foster parents or sent to institutions to be raised as domestic servants for white families. Many encountered sexual abuse, neglect, and cruelty.

For Debra Hocking, Rudd’s words go a little way toward healing the terrible wounds of her past. A mixed-race Aborigine from Tasmania, she was removed from her parents as a baby, along with her four siblings. The children were split up, with Ms. Hocking sent to a foster home where she suffered years of abuse.

“I was 18 months old when I was taken away, and I didn’t meet my mum until I was 20. I grew up not even knowing her name – the authorities wouldn’t tell me,” she recalls. “Eventually I tracked her down but by then she was gravely ill. We met twice, but two weeks later she died.”

She says there was no evidence of neglect in her family. The policy “was bizarre, and very cruel,” she adds. “Perhaps it was a deliberate attempt to breed out the Aboriginal race, by splitting up families.”

The issue of compensation is also highly contentious. Some Aboriginal leaders have called for the setting up of a compensation fund of about $900 million or more, but the government has so far refused. Reconciliation Australia hopes the government will eventually accept the idea of payouts, as some Australian states have done. “These people were done a grave injustice. Compensation is considered to be part of any reparations process,” says Mr. Glanville.

Apologizing to Australia’s aborigines had been debated by parliament for years, rejected by the former Prime Minister, and was a part of recently elected PM Kevin Rudd’s campaign. Australia’s original inhabitants, Aborigines number about 450,000 among a population of 21 million, are the poorest ethnic group in Australia, most likely to be jailed, unemployed and illiterate, and have a life expectancy rate 17 years shorter than “non-indigenous Australians.” And the apology is for that whole “Stolen Generation” thing: removing 100,000 mixed blood Aboriginal children from their parents, between 1910 and 1969. This official policy, carried out by governmental agencies was based, of course, on great a combination of eugenics and the idea that the non-indigenous were doing the mixed children a favor, rescuing them from a “race” of inferior stock, so they could live better lives… in internment camps and orphanages.

According to author Diana Wyndham, who wrote: Eugenics in Australia: Striving for National Fitness, the origins of Eugenics in Australia emerged from two prevailing preoccupations of the late 19th century. The first was ‘racial suicide’, an essentially Australian concern which compared the small and slowly growing population of Australia with the rapidly expanding populations of increasingly powerful Asian countries to the north, and assumed that invasion would result unless the (European) population of the country was quickly augmented and the tropical north of the country settled. One of the first pieces of legislation passed by the Federal Parliament of the newly created Commonwealth of Australia in 1901 was the Immigration Restriction Act, more widely known as the White Australia Policy. Using a device borrowed from the South African Colony of Natal, the Act limited immigration to those who could pass a dictation test in any European language of the testing officer’s choice, which not surprisingly proved to be a major impediment for persons of non-European origin.

More conventionally, to boost the population size after the serious losses suffered by the Australian forces in World War I, in 1920-1921 the State Labor Government of New South Wales appointed a Minister for Motherhood, a Mr. J.J. McGirr who had established his credentials for the post as a father of nine children. Adult immigration from the U.K. also was encouraged by the British Empire Settlement Act of 1922, which simultaneously sought to populate Australia while reducing unemployment and urban overcrowding in the mother country.

The second major area of concern was ‘racial decay’, a more global theme pursued by many national Eugenic movements, which predicted an inevitable decline in the ‘national stock’ because of the lesser fertility of the more successful and worthy sections of society by comparison with those regarded as being feckless and of lesser capacity. This perspective was heightened by controversy surrounding the introduction of a £5 child birth bounty in 1912, albeit restricted to white mothers only, which was criticized in the Eugenics Review on the grounds that it might encourage ‘…the birth of mentally deficient and unemployable of pauper stock’. Perhaps as a result, in the subsequent 1928 Royal Commission on Child Endowment or Family Allowance it was stated that ‘..eugenic considerations…must be taken into account’. Allied to these concerns was a strain of Social Darwinism expressed through the problems resulting from ‘racial poisons’, i.e., venereal disease, TB, prostitution, alcoholism and criminality, with plans to be made for ‘…dealing with society’s racially contaminated unfit and misfit’.

Dr. Wyndham touches on the forcible removal of large numbers of part-Aboriginal children from their mothers, to be raised in Children’s Homes or by white foster-parents, a policy introduced on the grounds that the Aboriginal peoples were destined for extinction. This policy of assimilation, which was followed with especial vigour by A.O. Neville the Protector of Aborigines in Western Australia and continued until 1970.

In the United States – eugenics targeted minorities as well- Watch Maafa21 and learn more (clip below) :

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